A new telepresence system for Google Glass has allowed two surgeons to cooperate during an operation as if they were both in the room.
A surgical team at the University of Alabama has performed the world’s first surgery using an augmented reality system called VIPAAR that works with Google Glass. VIPAAR, which stands for Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality (don’t ask where the extra A comes from), is a technology developed locally at the university and could be an important step forward in the development of tele-presence medicine. University of Alabama orthopedic surgeon Brent Ponce, M.D., performed a shoulder replacement surgery in september and received help via VIPAAR from Phani Dantuluri, M.D., from his office in Atlanta.
Ponce wore Google Glass during the operation, transmitting what he saw through the onboard camera to Dantuluri’s office, where the second doctor could monitor the surgery on his computer. Dr. Dantuluri could then similarly project his hands virtually onto the Google Glass display, showing up as a ghostly image in front of Dr. Ponce. “It’s not unlike the line marking a first down that a television broadcast adds to the screen while televising a football game,” said Ponce. “You see the line, although it’s not really on the field. Using VIPAAR, a remote surgeon is able to put his or her hands into the surgical field and provide collaboration and assistance.”
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s hospital
The new technology allowed both doctors to interact and discuss the operation as if they were both in the room. “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. University physicians believe the VIPAAR system could greatly help patient care by allowing veteran surgeons to provide their expertise on the fly. University neurosurgeon Barton Guthrie, M.D. explains: “The paradigm of the telephone consultation is, ‘Do the best you can and send the patient to me when stable’, while the paradigm with VIPAAR is ‘Get me to the patient.’ Let’s get my expertise and experience to the physician on the front line, and I think we can implement that concept with these technologies.”