UWA Student Changemaker – Marcus Pham BCM, BE '16

UWA electrical engineering and computer science student

UWA and meUWA Changemaker - Marcus Pham

I’ve been at UWA since 2009, when I began a double undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Bachelor of Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

Nearing the end of my degree, I took up my thesis project with Prof. Thomas Braunl in the UWA Renewable Energy Vehicle (REV) Project, working on the converted Lotus Elise and the Hyundai Getz. I learned about electric vehicles and battery management and was appointed REV Student Manager working with robotics and electric vehicles.

Following this, I began teaching as a lab demonstrator in Electrical Engineering.

Augmented reality in the dentist’s chair

At the end of 2015, I was approached by Thomas Braunl and Prof. Paul Ichim in Dentistry to work on a project for improving the learning outcomes of dentistry students. The project involved combining embedded sensors with augmented reality. With the help of dental software technology, dentists in training wear a set of augmented reality glasses that enable them to use hand gestures to access information that is displayed in their peripheral vision. They can use that information while they’re completing procedures.

I immediately saw the commercial potential of the product to enhance efficiency and patient experience in dentistry. I was encouraged by UWA’s Innovation Quarter to join Start Something, a program to assist researchers in commercializing their work.

We soon moved from Start Something onto applying for the 8 week CSIRO ON Prime program, validating research and exploring the possibilities for commercialisation with a $5000 OpEx grant. We have since been selected as one of 10 innovations in Australia to be included in CSIRO’s ON Accelerate program.

Efficiency and accuracy

Currently, there are inefficiencies in the methods used to train dentists in fundamental tooth preparation skills. This research uses augmented reality to decrease the time it takes students to acquire fundamental skills and significantly increase accuracy by providing all the relevant information they need without interrupting a practice procedure.

There are multiple flow-on effects, such as a reduction in costs for dental schools, more patients will receive affordable dental work, students will sooner reach clinic-ready level and can treat live patients more effectively at the dental school clinic.

We provide a means for quick information access, decreasing non-clinical time requirements at the dentist, allowing them to see more patients and get more dental work done.

Endless possibilities

The most interesting aspect of this research is thinking about the potential impact of the additional features. There are applications for the product in many more fields, like medicine, where precision and/or critical information access is needed.

I feel augmented reality is where the future is headed and the possibilities for its use are endless.

Read more about Marcus’ project in UWA News.