Holoxica: 3D holographic solutions for a digital world

Discover how one Scottish tech company is humanising digital communications with its leading-edge three-dimensional technology. Wendy Lamin, Co-founder and Managing Director of Holoxica talks about the company’s innovative technology, its future vision and why Scotland is the perfect location for tech startups to flourish.

“If you’re considering Scotland as a possible location to develop your next technology project, don’t hesitate. There’s strong support from both the Scottish and UK governments for the tech and data industry alongside help from Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, and easy access to top talent.“

Wendy Lamin, Co-founder and Managing Director of Holoxica

Wendy Lamin, Co-founder and Managing Director of Holoxica

Enhancing the digital experience in three dimensions

Holoxica is a high-tech company based in Edinburgh and we specialise in three-dimensional (3D) holographic solutions for professional applications, all viewable with the naked eye and by multiple people simultaneously – no goggles or headsets required.

Think of us as the ‘multi-taskers’ of 3D visualisation. We can basically take any type of data and display it in 3D, ranging from LIDAR and sonar to medical scans. In doing so, we are laying the foundations for the next cultural revolution, which is to improve how we communicate in a 3D digitally connected world.

Our world is three dimensional – our brains are wired for three dimensions – so it makes sense that we communicate and visualise complex datasets in true 3D as well.

We’ve done a lot of work in the medical market with many world firsts. If you look at the global market for medical holographic imaging, it is growing fast. Valued at $744 million USD in 2019, it’s forecast to reach $4,198 million USD by 2027 according to Emergen Research. And it’s the increasing adoption of holographic imaging in healthcare and in medical education that’s driving market demand.

Full-stack software solutions

Holoxica is active in a wide range of specialist markets which are all about visualisation of 3D data – our clients include big industry players in the engineering, scientific data visualisation, defence, energy, biomedical, industrial and space fields. We also create 3D content ourselves, such as 3D surgical animations and digital twins. Our clients use our proprietary software to display static, dynamic or real-time data in real 3D on 3D displays. 

We can deliver a full-stack solution (design, hardware and software) including five applications, which are in different stages of development and commercialisation.

Our most mature software is our 3D visualisation software, called Holoviewer. It’s great for viewing and engaging with 3D models and animations in 3D on a 2D screen, or even better, in 3D on a 3D display. You can make annotations in your models, change parameters, pan, rotate, spin, have an entire library or different galleries and even generate videos.

Why Scotland is the perfect location for tech companies

We landed here 12 years ago and have not looked back. If you’re considering Scotland as a possible location to develop your next technology project, don’t hesitate. Come on over, you won’t regret it. Our longest serving employee has been with us for nearly 10 years, he’s from France. People want to stay in Scotland.

There’s strong support from both the Scottish and UK governments for the tech and data industry alongside help from Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, and easy access to top talent. And with growing organisations like ScotlandIS and Technology Scotland, support for the Scottish tech community just keeps on getting better and better.

Help from Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International was crucial to develop our technology, including:

  • R&D and innovation support helped us with grant preparation which led to an EU funded project of €1.2 million EUR
  • Skills support helped us find students and placements. TalentScotland was great, we recruited one of our top engineers through them.
  • Financial support helped us with investment, market readiness and intellectual property
  • International support helped us attend the Photonics West Conference in California as well as other events. And introductions to private and university hospitals helped us raise awareness in the Swiss medical market.

We feel that Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International gave us extra wind in our sails, when times were low with the combination of Brexit and Covid-19.

From telemedicine to hazard-detecting robots to earth observation

Our tech has been used in medical imaging, scientific data visualisation, and engineering design. From education and training to communicating complex data sets in 3D. 

Our main markets are currently medical and defence industries. However, we’ve had recent interests from the wealth management industry, and the high-end retail and hotel industries as well.

Besides Holoviewer, our other software solutions are:

Volumeviewer gives surgeons and patients the option to see and operate scans in colourful 3D. It can be used to view medical data in both 2D and 3D, on a 2D screen and on a 3D display, with support for real-time camera controls and volume adjustments.

3D Telepresence is a 3D videoconferencing system with off-the-shelf components. It opens a new frontier for collaborative immersive communication, in wearables-free 3D. One immediate application is 3D Telemedicine.

[Picture shows scans in colourful 3D with Holoxica’s Volumeviewer shown on a personal computer and in 3D on a 3D display.]

3D Telexistence came after we invented 3D Telepresence, from winning a recent Defence Science and Technology Lab/Defence and Security Accelerator project. It’s about humans remotely operating robots in hazardous environments (such as in mine field, bomb disposal, and nuclear decommissioning operations), where we deliver a next generation 3D visualisation system.

Geoviewer is our latest experimental 3D software for geomapping and earth observation purposes.

Example of medical applications

Holoxica’s software solutions can help medical professionals for training, diagnosis, patient consultation and education, in person and remotely. Three of our medical software products can be integrated in one holistic app, which we’ve named the Holoxica Holo-medicine suite. It includes:

  • The 3D videoconferencing or 3D Telemedicine tech which allows doctors to see their patients in 3D
  • The Holoviewer software which allows doctors to explain complicated procedures with easy-to-understand visual animations and models
  • Volumeviewer which allows surgeons to see patients’ scans in colourful and flexible 3D, which helps them with pre-surgery planning and patient education. The doctor can zoom in the scan, zoom out, rotate, and properly explain the medical condition.

Meeting patients’ needs

Medical science and communication are still built mostly around 2D imagery tools. Our tech is about rethinking the patient experience by making it more natural and human, educating patients in 3D. Language is imperfect. 3D visualisation gives doctors and nurses a way of showing a specific problem, overcoming linguistic and socio-economic barriers.

With Covid-19 forcing millions of people to seek healthcare remotely, Holo-medicine is designed to benefit patients – enhancing remote consultations, helping people understand their conditions and surgical procedures more clearly, and reducing the strain on the wider healthcare system. It’s all about humanising and democratising digital healthcare communications.

Patient education is currently an unmet need. With this tech, patients can save time and money as they have a remote consultation, they get properly educated, get a faster diagnosis and/or second opinion, and better accessibility of medical care.

It’s also a great tool for doctor-doctor peer interaction and consultation, for surgical planning, surgical and anatomy education, and improved speed of surgical procedures and diagnostics. Moreover, the data sits in the Cloud so can be easily accessed anywhere anytime.

[Picture shows a medical doctor discussing an upcoming lung procedure with 3D visualisation of lungs with Holoxica’s Holoviewer software to a patient.]

Disrupting the market to deliver faster and better solutions

What sets our technology apart from the competition is that there is no need for goggles, glasses or any type of headwear. And multiple people can view it simultaneously. 

Also, we were able to develop a basic 3D Telepresence system with off-the-shelf components in less than 6 months thanks to an Innovate UK grant in the context of Covid-19, whereas a huge telecom player couldn’t do it after two years!

It’s not a simple transition going from 2D to 3D. Google launched their 3D Telepresence after years of work and spent millions of dollars. We understand the hardware inside out as we pivoted from being a hardware company to a software company – therefore we’re able to deliver solutions much more quickly than established players.

The benefits of 3D visualisation in medical imaging, training and education have been highlighted in studies that say:

  • 3D is 75% more effective than 2D for spatial manipulation/finding/identifying/classifying object
  • 20% improved teaching, learning and retention
  • Improved speed of diagnostics: 40% faster interpretation of CT/MRI scans
  • Improved speed of surgical procedures by 15%
  • Improved accuracy of surgical procedures by 15%
  • It enables medical students to learn faster with better retention and understanding rates (40% to 75%)

Future 3D technology adoption

After 10 years of medical visualisation experience, how do I see our technology being adopted in the years to come?

First, we believe that in the future, all computer monitors will be 3D capable. In other words, all computer screens will be able to switch between 2D and 3D. It’s just a question of time, such prototypes already exist. It’s familiar, a natural progression over current 2D monitors. Moreover, most smart phones already have 3D depth capabilities.

We truly think that everyone continuously wearing augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets or glasses (on top of their glasses), is a dystopian future. The technologies will be complementary, perhaps AR/VR headsets will even be disrupted by this technology!

This being said, we’ve just been working on a digital twin with a very happy client. From what we hear, digital twins are the foundations that the much talked about 'metaverse' will be built on, the possible next version of the internet. Let’s watch this space.

Scotland is a top location for health technology research and commercialisation

Scotland is home to lots of leading-edge research institutes and top universities. And there’s a strong history in medical and medical imaging inventions. From Sir Ian Donald, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Glasgow, who built the world’s first ultrasound machine for prenatal scans, to the team at the University of  Aberdeen which developed the first whole-body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner, to the amazing work the Edinburgh Imaging facility is doing based at the University of Edinburgh's medical faculty.

We’re proud to have contributed to this, with several medical world firsts commissioned by or in partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s medical faculty, including holograms of a:

  • Liver from an ultrasound scan
  • Brain fibres from MRI
  • Lungs from CT scanning
  • An Egyptian mummy in a tomb which has never been opened through a CT scan
  • And the largest anatomical hologram ever made

Partnering with universities and industry

Holoxica values its partnerships with industry and universities very highly. It feels like we’ve been in touch one way or another with nearly all universities in Scotland, come to think of it.

We’ve definitely benefited from having an office on campus at the University of Edinburgh and have found incredibly talented individuals to come and work with us. 

Same for top talent from Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot-Watt. We have engineers with a PhD in Photonics from Heriot-Watt and software and holographic design engineers from Edinburgh Napier University.

We have people who graduated from the University of St Andrews and always look at talent coming from Abertay University in Dundee.

We do want to highlight that we also work with people who didn’t finish university but are incredibly driven and talented.

We’re currently embarking on a project for a 3D animation of a new surgical procedure for a renowned US children’s hospital and we need an extra pair of hands. So, it’s great to being able to tap into local top talent of students with a masters in medical visualisation and human anatomy from the Glasgow School of Art.

For another UK grant application, we’re calling upon the 5G experience of the University of Glasgow. We’re involved in a project with the University of Strathclyde and just spoke with the University of Aberdeen who also won a coveted Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) grant which involved 3D cameras in order to find ways to collaborate.

Whether it’s through joint research projects, being on boards of university departments, or having academia as clients to show the results of their work in 3D – these collaborations keep our finger on the pulse. 

"Teaching the true 3D structure of the human body to medical students can be challenging when teaching material is largely all in 2D. We hope that this hologram, and others that we make in the future, will introduce our students to a novel and innovative way of visualising 3D anatomy.”

Professor Gordon Findlater, Professor of Translation Anatomy, University of Edinburgh

Scotland has a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem and we’ve benefited from being based in Codebase, the UK’s largest tech incubator. We’ll soon be moving to Murchison House which is the co-location of the University of Edinburgh's innovation management service and the Edinburgh Technology Transfer Centre.

We’ll be having an exhibition space there which we didn’t have at Codebase.

Benefits of being based at Codebase

The nicest benefit was that we used to occupy the top floor of Codebase and could just turn our computer screens and show Edinburgh Castle to potential investors.

Kidding aside, it's a great location next to the historical Grassmarket – a fortunate place to meet likeminded people and compare notes. And to be honest, we were always quite proud to being able to say that we were based in the UK’s largest tech incubator, which attracts a lot of attention.

More about Holoxica’s solutions

If you’re interested in Holoxica’s 3D technologies or other Scottish healthtech solutions, get in touch.

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