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Vision scientists shine light on hand washing techniques

Researchers from the Sensory Processes Research Laboratory within the UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science have developed augmented reality software that shows the effectiveness of differing hand washing techniques.

Dr Nayuta Yoshioka, Dr Juno Kim and Mr Jason Feng developed the system, which adopts similar imaging techniques to those used in eyecare, to demonstrate how much gunk remains on the hands at each stage of the World Health Organization’s six-step handwashing method.

As part of the study led by Yoshioka and Kim, participants’ hands were covered in UV florescent lotion before washing. The researchers then used a program to overlay a heatmap on their hands to highlight the level of cleanliness. Purple areas were considered clean, while the red and yellow parts had not been sufficiently washed.

This diagram shows the effectiveness of each washing stage on the back and palm of the hand. Purple areas were considered clean, while red and yellow parts were insufficiently washed.

Kim said the augmented reality demonstration showed the importance of following all six stages of the WHO handwashing guidelines.

“The real application is using the tool as a resource to teach clinicians about effective hand washing and the importance of following the instructions,” he said.

“Just rinsing your hands for 20 seconds isn’t going to be enough unless you rub your hands together in an effective way to eliminate contaminants on the hands.”

The Sensory Processes Research Laboratory aims to understand how perception of the environment is influenced by complex interactions between neural signals generated by different senses, including vision.

“From a teaching perspective, the laboratory educates undergraduate students about how our visual experience of the world is more than just the eye, it’s also the brain and other senses that are involved,” Kim said.

“Multisensory understanding of perceptual systems requires an equally multidisciplinary approach to not only increase understanding of sensory processes and perception, but also for achieving practical outcomes to solve significant problems of real-world benefit.”