SARASOTA -- With a few touches on an iPad, Jeff Hazelton can delve into the human anatomy and see a colorful, three-dimensional view of a heart beating or a cellular membrane at work.
It's a living medical environment that graphic artists at Lucid Global are creating as educational and informational tools for the medical industry. Customized apps designed for mobile devices simplify the complexities of medicine for doctors, patients, medical students and staff.
Hazelton, president and chief technical officer at the Sarasota-based company, says using three-dimensional images and holograms is the cutting edge of digital communication. The company, founded in 2011, is growing and expanding its 4,000-square-foot, ultra-modern office space in downtown Sarasota to 6,500 square feet.
Hazelton, a pre-med major, describes himself as a "hybrid" with a background in both medicine and art.
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He started college in New Hampshire with the idea of becoming a neurosurgeon, but by the time he graduated he had taken plenty of art courses and fallen in love with painting. He wasn't sure exactly where he was headed in his career so he joined a friend and spent a few years sailing the globe.
By the time his 32-foot sailboat reached New Zealand, he knew he wanted to get involved in computer animation.
He was hired by an advertising agency in San Diego, Calif., and worked for companies like Pfizer Pharmaceuticals creating interactive medical visuals. He formed BioLucid Technologies in 2001 and began developing ways to help healthcare professionals by connecting hard science and data in a virtual reality.
Hazelton now has three business partners with Lucid Global and 25 employees, 11 of whom are Ringling College graduates, with strong artistic foundations.
"I always say it is much easier to take an amazing
artistic person and teach them the medical aspects than the other way around," he said.
The artists combine video game technology and movie animation skills to create apps that Hazelton says take the viewer from the full human body down to the cellular membrane. The apps can be designed in different versions, for patients or medical professionals, and in different languages.
"You don't have to read a bunch of big words to understand how the body is functioning," he said.
Lawrence Kiey, the company's CEO, has more than 15 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He met Hazelton and the two collaborated on their ideas and decided to start Lucid Global.
"We are trying to change the dynamics of the medical conversation that happens between pharmaceutical companies and doctors that impact patents' health in a more visual and engaging way," Kiey said.
Through the three-dimensional images patients are better able to understand the diseases they have and better understand what is happening inside their bodies, he said.
"Pamphlets were used before and patients usually leave a doctor's visit with a disconnect," Kiey said. "This is empowering the end user."
The company has developed video games that also teach the science of the human body. Hazelton said the video games are effective, for example, in working with kids who have cancer.
"They are better about taking their medicine, they're more engaged in their treatment and this empowers them to fight it (cancer)," he said.
During the development process, graphic artists do extensive research and doctors are consulted to assure accuracy. But there is a creative license taken, Hazelton said, because some of details aren't even known by medical science. "For instance, what color is a cell membrane?" he asked. "It allows for the artistic side and we've found that when that happens, the results are better than we expected."
Lucid Global was the only local company that recently presented at the Institute on Aging Conference in Sarasota, where eight companies from around the country were invited to present their most advanced projects related to positive aging, health and technology.
The company's main clients are pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, medical schools and physicians.
The apps are provided free of charge to physicians to use in their medical practice. Hazelton estimates that 80 percent of physicians are now using an iPad.
Lucid's cutting edge technology also is being used in other arenas, like the automotive industry. A specialized holographic display has been designed for dealership showrooms that illustrates the newest car models.
"We are dabbling in areas where it makes sense," Hazelton said. Holographic children's books and virtual baseball cards are on the drawing board, as well.
"This technology could be leveraged for any industry," Kiey said. "Medicine just happens to be near and dear to our hearts and we know this can have a real value to the world."