Authors: Neo Christopher Chung, Gisel Calvo-Farell, Ashwin Kulothungun, Alexander Brehm, and George C. Dyer III
Recent developments in personalized genomics and ubiquitous computing have created new opportunities in the current healthcare system. Especially with an increasing number of elders and patients in constant needs, a new breed of wellness models is necessary. We believe that the full potential of biomedical and computational advances can be achieved through an integrative approach, combining diverse solutions from genome-wide association studies, continuous health monitoring, large-scale statistical analysis, embodied interface, and intuitive virtual reality. Lifeomics is a proof of concept to lay a concrete foundation for an immediate development of health monitoring hardware and graphic user interface. In this report, we present how different concepts are augmented together to create a cohesive platform.
Lifeomics is a visionary healthcare system to promote continuous health awareness, participatory learning, and wholesome living. This holistic approach to the quality of life, which aims to personalize our experience with and expectations of healthcare, employs a wearable interface (LifeomicsWEAR), a wellness prediction algorithm (Lifeomics Engine), and a cross-platform virtual reality environment (Lifeomics World). The Lifeomics’ back-end simulation algorithm, the Lifeomics Engine, generates a wellbeing status report of a participant based on evolving datasets from the Web 2.0 applications, intimate health measurements from the LifeomicsWEAR, and human-avatar activities in the Lifeomics World. This simulation will incorporate user-specific medical information, possibility of time and location manipulation, and systematic probabilistic modeling.
With an increased understanding of human biology, the current medical system leans toward prediction and prevention of diseases. The current trend of biomedicine involves many system-level studies of entities in aggregate such as genomics, proteomics, and predictomics. To provide a glimpse into this future world, we propose an integrated package of hardware and software, the Lifeomics, which simulates a futuristic healthcare model. Participants become aware and knowledgeable of their health as well as ethical implications of new diagnosis, treatment, and drugs. Furthermore with this kind of overall picture, the public can demand and drive advancement of life science technologies. Overall, Lifeomics could serve as a doctor, a teacher, and a research collaborator without overwhelming its participants.
II. LifeomicsWEAR: embodied interface for vital signs
The LifeomicsWEAR is a wearable computing device whose unobtrusive sensor and communication interface will generate and streamline continuous health measurements. This novel interface presented in the form of a watch will continuously sense heart rate, temperature, perspiration, body movement, and other critical body signs of a user. Furthermore, the LifeomicsWEAR communicates with the Lifeomics backend server through mobile telecommunications and wireless networks to acquire simulated health indication as well as personal and local information. The complete tracking of a patient’s vital statistics is not possible without this type of ubiquitous interface, which is socially integrative, functionally unobtrusive, and aesthetically pleasing.
The LifeomicsWEAR consists of four major components; one 2.5” x 3” [w x h] flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, a pair of two 2” x 3.5” ergonomic straps made of ductile skin-like polymer, one 2.5” x 1.5” multi-touch pad, and three micro-sensors (pressure and velocity, temperature and perspiration, and wireless communication). Its OLED screen delivers a visual health indicator as well as a cross-platform personal information manager and subjective wellness questionnaires. Micro-sensors embedded alongside of the strap continuously monitors and transmits vital health measurements to the Lifeomics Engine via wireless communication. To encourage continuous wearing of the device, its strap and associated casing are to be made of ductile polymers. A multi-touch pad embedded in the LifeomicsWEAR will allow a user to employ natural finger movements and signature gestures to interact with digital information. For example, swiping and pinching a touch pad on a strap, which would be located in an opposite side of the screen on a user’s wrist, translates into scrolling and zooming, while placing two fingers on a touch pad and one finger on the opposing screen (a conventional gesture to measure one’s heart rate) will bring up her health profile with behavior suggestions.
A) The front view; B) The side view; C) Graphic User Interface
The LifeomicsWEAR’s graphic interface and functionalities are an integrated approach to manage personal information, including a health indicator and a daily scheduler. The center of the LifeomicsWEAR screen is occupied by a health indicator whose heart, lung, and brain icons symbolizing health conditions of a user. Its shape, color, and tone morph according to measured and simulated data. Thus a user can quickly learn her/his short- and long-term health status. Detailed analysis is available upon clicking into the health indicator. Below the health indicator is the subjective health survey, which aids intrinsic information in assessing health conditions. Stress-free and swift questionnaires, visualized in a graphic form of fade controls, expedite a discrete acquisition of user’s psychological state. As a wearable computing device, the LifeomicsWEAR also provides a cross-platform personal information manager, including an integrated personal communication tool (VoIP, email, and social networks), individualized calendar, and locality information (weather, traffic, and businesses). With multi-touch pads, a user will be able to navigate through various forms of data without the use of traditional input sources. Importantly, the LifeomicsWEAR’s wireless connectivity will allow further manipulation of data via larger computing, displaying, and inputting devices.
III. Lifeomics World: virtual reality social platform
The Lifeomics World is essentially the social network platform for every type of Lifeomics user, including customers, health professionals, and service providers. This virtual reality platform allows diverse commercial and non-commercial activities, to collectively promote wholesome ways to improve wellness through personal, social, and medical means. Participants will have opportunities to examine their medical condition, family wellness, social interactions, and daily lifestyle. A range of health services, independent of the Lifeomics, is allowed to operate within the Lifeomics World. In addition, users will be able to converse with each other online to share and contribute opinions on biomedical studies, ethical issues, and scientific endeavors. Overall, while seamlessly interacting with intrinsic and extrinsic personal data, participants will create new ideas, concepts, and awareness on holistic wellbeing, medical advancements, and associated ethical issues.
At the core of the Lifeomics World is the Lifeomics Engine, which facilitate the core simulation using personal data from LifeomicsWEAR and social activities on the Lifeomics World. An initial framework is summarized in Figure 7. The user starts with a fixed amount of “wellness points”. With user inputs, such as health monitoring and Web 2.0 application updates, the points will be calculated using a point assignment chart. Each sub factor will be assigned a number of points, and each meta-analysis study will be related to a set of sub factor points. Meta-analysis of biomedical studies will be associated with a number of predictions through a Bayesian network. Each prediction will be set to a number of points, that can be obtained through a combination of sub factor points, including, but not limited to, amount of exercise, healthy choice in shopping, and self-education. This chart will be used along with the user profile to determine the avatars development in the virtual reality environment.
While the Lifeomics Engine symbolizes the server-side operation underlying the Lifeomics World, users are provided with the Lifeomics Client, a software to be connected to the Lifeomics World. Users can dynamically and visually interact with the Lifeomics Engine, other participants, health professionals, and a synthetic world. Besides intimate health measurements, user inputs would include genomic association studies, personal medical history, family tree, geographical information, socioeconomic status, and lifestyles. We propose to construct the essence of a personal genome, dubbed the Lifeome, based on user inputs, standard models, and systematic distributions in order to mimic a future when an affordable genomic technology allows everyone to have a genomic record. To ease the registration process and enhance the user’s experience, the Lifeomics Client will demonstrate connections to applications such as Facebook, Google Apps, and mobile phones. As users become more familiar with the Lifeomics Client, every participant will be able to contribute opinions and health information, which will influence the outcome of the simulation.
Furthermore, the Lifeomics World implements visual simulation of health conditions onto avatars of its participants. Of course, an avatar is completely customizable by its user. At any given time, users can change almost every aspect of their avatars; from its shape to cloths. However the Lifeomics World will put translucent 3D surfaces on avatars, that are only apparent as one’s health conditions get worsen. A normal avatar acquires an extra layer on its skin, which can temporarily change a skin tone, add visual scars, or deform body parts (i.e. eyebrow). This visual simulation, in addition to a profile, would create immediate impressions and subtle psychological environments that provoke questions of wellbeing in the virtual reality and in the real life.
This kind of visual simulation, which reflects one’s wellness rather than one’s desired appearance, is to increase a fundamental awareness of our own body and mind. Its underlying philosophical inquiry as well as practical user adaptation would be a study of its own. Overall, a novel integrated approach to how we construct our online self and how we are actually “constructing” ourselves offline would be an interesting social project.
IV. Lifeomics Professional: population health monitor
The Lifeomics Professional is a specialized digital interface for health professionals and service providers. Based on the Lifeomics Client, the Lifeomics Professional will provide large-scale monitoring tools as well as an encrypted communication system to interact with users online. The Lifeomics Professional includes a split-screen patient tracking tool, a real-time visualizer, and a computational analyzer. Current health professionals, such as family doctors, local clinics, and regional hospitals, will use this system to aid in serving patients online and offline. Health professionals will be free to carry out both traditional and non-traditional health service tasks in the Lifeomics World, including online consultations and offline appointments.
Furthermore, the Lifeomics Professional is to be utilized by specialized service providers whose main goal is to oversee a large amount of customers: including both patients in critical condition and health-conscious consumers. Similar to a security company, those companies will set up either distributed or centralized monitoring centers, where nurses and medical doctors keep track of their customers, with the aid of computer predictions and suggestions. Direct textual, visual, and audio feedbacks will enhance experience of consumers. While largely independent of the Lifeomics model, exemplary services could include emergency management and lifestyle improvement programs.
The complete Lifeomics healthcare model, which involves the virtual reality platform and the wearable interface, may disrupt the healthcare system and transform how people are medically served in the society. The empowerment of users, whether called participants, patients, or consumers, is critical in the healthcare industry, whose passive suppliers have been dominating and controlling. This framework is to decentralize and demystify healthcare and associated enterprises. By promoting preventive and holistic medicine, the Lifeomics program’s mission is to improve the healthcare standard. Unobtrusive sensors and communication tools of the LifeomicsWEAR, combined with the Lifeomics World, will help people in their pursuit of wellness and effective living. The Lifeomics World will generate new online and offline networks where the demands and needs of individuals will be met by user generated resources as well as an open market place. The Lifeomics will demonstrate that when new medicine is fused with new media, people will be able to realize the full potential of new media medicine.
This project would not have been possible without encouragement from Dr. Collee Monahan and Daniela Atanasova. Neo Christopher Chung was supported by the 2009 Visual Studies Initiative Summer Research Fellowship.
Latest developments of the Lifeomics is available at The Lifeomics Website