For my latest Microsoft assignment, I travelled to Northumbria to photograph Justin Green and Mike Reed, two NHS orthopedic surgeons who are using Azure AI to spot patients facing increased risks during surgery.
More than 6 million people in England are waiting for treatment by the National Health Service. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation worse, with staff shortages and the suspension of non-urgent operations resulting in another 2.3 million people being added to waiting lists since May 2020.
Justin and Mike are exploring how AI could help reduce waiting times, support recommendations from healthcare teams and provide patients with better information so they can make more informed decisions about their own care. The AI model is hosted in Microsoft’s Azure cloud and uses the Responsible AI dashboard in Azure Machine Learning, so that medical professionals are given a clearer understanding of why the AI has reached its conclusions.
Patients might not notice the changes when they visit a hospital or their GP, but they could soon be benefitting from a more personalized and informative care experience.
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Two years ago, Microsoft approached me for an assignment in Orkney Scotland, to photograph the deployment of Project Natick, an underwater datacenter. Frustratingly I had to decline because I was due to have a minor operation a couple of weeks before.
In June I was contacted with the news that Microsoft would be retrieving the vessel shortly and would I be able to capture it? They had me at “Orkney”!
Project Natick is Microsoft’s research into the feasibility of an underwater datacenter – it’s a pretty far out concept to begin with, but the more you learn about it the more you begin to see the genius behind it.
A sealed vessel on the ocean floor does not have any of the issues that the equivalent land datacenter does, with corrosion from oxygen and humidity, temperature fluctuations, and bumps plus jostles from technicians who monitor and replace broken components.
Project Natick also supports Microsoft’s sustainability goals with the vessel in Orkney consuming no water for cooling and being powered by renewable energy sources.
I worked with Spencer Fowers and Mike Shepperd, alongside the Natick team and Microsoft News, with Photobanks supplying all the photography, film and drone photography.
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I recently photographed for Microsoft with the brilliant journalist, Allison Linn who is their Senior writer, editor and multimedia storyteller. We were covering a research project at the Microsoft Centre in Cambridge.
When Microsoft released the Kinect system for playing Xbox video games about five years ago, it attracted the interest of an unlikely source: the healthcare company Novartis.
To try to quantify the progress of multiple sclerosis, doctors have developed astandard set of tests they perform. Doctors watch the patient and then use a rating scale to determine how strong the patient’s symptoms are. However, doctors are only human, and despite all their best efforts to standardize the MS test, in the end it is subjective.
That’s why the possibility of using computer vision, which is the type of technology found in the Kinect system, was so intriguing. Using a tool like the Kinect, the researchers at Novartis figured they could get a more consistent reading of how a patient performed on each of the tests, bringing a new level of uniformity that would help doctors better assess the progress of the disease. That, in turn, could speed up the process of getting the right treatments to patients.
Microsoft researchers have long been at the cutting edge of a field called machine learning, which is a branch of artificial intelligence in which systems get better at doing something as they gather more data. Machine learning is ideal for a project like Assess MS because, as the computer vision system captures more recordings of patient movements, it can deliver more consistent results showing the disease’s progression. It was a collaboration between doctor, patient and technology.
Ultimately, the researchers hope that Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies can use Assess MS to speed up clinical trials for multiple sclerosis, and perhaps, eventually, for other, similar diseases as well.
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