Remote virtual surgery via Google Glass and telepresence

November 12, 2013

From his office in Atlanta, Dr. Dantuluri watches Google-Glass-generated images of surgery in progress in Atlanta …

A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) surgical team has performed one of the first surgeries using a telepresence augmented reality technology from VIPAAR in conjunction with Google Glass.

The combination of the two technologies could be an important step toward the development of useful, practical telemedicine.

VIPAAR (Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality) is commercializing a UAB-developed technology that provides real-time, two-way, interactive video conferencing.

UAB orthopedic surgeon Brent Ponce, M.D., performed a shoulder replacement surgery Sept. 12 at UAB Highlands Hospital in Birmingham. Watching and interacting with Ponce via the VIPAAR technology was Phani Dantuluri, M.D., from his office in Atlanta.

… and offers a remote suggestion to the surgeon

Ponce wore Google Glass during the operation. The built-in camera transmitted the image of the surgical field to Dantuluri.

The VIPAAR technology allowed Dantuluri to see exactly what Ponce saw in the operating room and introduce his hands or instruments into the virtual surgical field.

At the same time, Ponce saw Dantuluri’s hands and instruments in his Google Glass display, along with his own field of view, as a merged-reality environment.

The two surgeons were able to discuss the case in a truly interactive fashion since Dantuluri could watch Ponce perform the surgery and simultaneously introduce his hands or instruments into Ponce’s view as if they were standing next to each other during the case.

“It’s real-time, real-life, right there, as opposed to a Skype or video conference call, which allows for dialogue back and forth but is not really interactive,” said Ponce.

UAB physicians say this kind of technology could greatly enhance patient care by allowing a veteran surgeon to remotely provide valuable expertise to less experienced surgeons.

Ponce says VIPAAR’s capabilities allow the remote physician to point out anatomy, provide guidance, or even demonstrate the proper positioning of instruments. He says it could be an invaluable tool for teaching residents or helping surgeons first learning a new procedure.

“This system is able to provide that help from an expert who is not on-site, guiding and teaching new skills while enhancing patient safety and outcomes,” he said. “It provides a safety net to improve patient care by having that assistance from an expert who is not in the room.”

Potential applications for VIPAAR also include “field service, from a service call to fix a heating system to keeping an industrial manufacturing process online and running,” said Drew Deaton, CEO of VIPAAR.

VIPAAR’s mobile video platform is available today, while Google Glass is in beta testing.

(Images credit UAB News)