By Michael Vidikan, Futurist & Director, Orthopreneurs
While 2020 might be a year we’d like to forget, it’s kicking the tech revolution into high gear as millions of people for the first time adopt technologies for remote learning, telehealth, collaboration, digital payments, and much more. Technologically progressive orthodontists will be beneficiaries of this shift and would do well to monitor these trends. One technology in particular that will seep into offices over the next decade will be Augmented Reality (AR). Here are just a few of the ways orthodontists might find themselves adopting AR:
1. Smart Mirrors
From Neiman Marcus to Sephora, smart mirrors are being tested and rolled out in the retail space. A smart mirror is essentially a digital screen with a selfie cam that applies an AR filter to let consumers see what they would look like after applying makeup, trying on different colors or patterned clothing, or even different accessories – without actually having to do any of that.
The smart mirror could become an important tool in ortho practices to let parents and patients see what they might look like after treatment. Or what they might look like wearing different types or colors of brackets, aligners, aligner attachments, or anything else that might influence their treatment decisions.
A smart mirror could hang on the wall in the TC’s office or it could be as simple as having an iPad with the right app in the waiting room.
2. Smart Glasses
Google Glass failed because they weren’t targeting the right audience: tech savvy orthodontists. Augmented Reality-enabled smart glasses will find their way into ortho practices in the near future because they hold tremendous potential for training and efficiency. Imagine being able to share what you see hands-free with a colleague or instructor who also appears in a screen in your peripheral. Your colleague would able to circle or point to issues in real time, assisting with your most complex cases. For some cases, just a few minutes from an expert would save you countless hours down the road. Orthodontists at the end of their careers might have a bright future advising startups and passing along decades of knowledge. Residencies might be able to offer continuing education long after graduation. DSOs could leverage their scale to help doctors in different office locations.
And while it’s a great idea to travel to visit a colleague’s office in person, it’s not always feasible when they live on the other side of the planet (or in the middle of a pandemic). AR can provide the opportunity for doctors to see and learn from each other when they are miles apart.
3. Providing Fun and Engaging Experiences for Patients
Let’s face it, orthodontists are always competing for attention and looking for ways to wow their patients and stand out from the crowd. AR can help with both. Patient swag bags and aligner boxes can be outfitted with images that trigger an AR response. It could be a card inside that triggers a nice welcome message from the doctor, an informational video about brushing, a funny AR filter, or just something fun like a video game. These are all possible with just the use of a smartphone.
The key to AR adoption among orthodontists, like most other technologies, will be simplicity of use and return on investment. Want to learn more about AR? Here are some additional resources to dig in:
Why Every Organization Needs an Augmented Reality Strategy, by Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann: https://hbr.org/2017/11/a-managers-guide-to-augmented-reality
Microsoft HoloLens Remote Assist demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3YT8j0yYl0
Augmented Retail: The New Consumer Reality, by Nielsen: https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2019/augmented-retail-the-new-consumer-reality/