Touchless technology ideal for the operating theatres

Leading role: Lancaster University has pioneered using touchless technology for brain surgery
Leading role: Lancaster University has pioneered using touchless technology for brain surgery
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Academics from Lancashire have helped develop pioneering touchless technology now being used for brain surgery.

Dr Mark Rouncefield and Dr Gerardo Gonzalez from the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University were part of a team from Microsoft Research, Guy’s Hospital, St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and King’s College London to pilot the technology in the operating theatre.

The technology was initially trialled in vascular surgery procedures and the team from Lancaster and Microsoft have now linked up with neurosurgeons at Addenbrookes NHS Foundation Trust and Cambridge University to apply the technology to the manipulation of 3D volumetric models of the brain for neurosurgery.

The new system is currently being piloted in the operating theatres, enabling surgeons to view, control and manipulate medical images without actually touching screens and constantly having to re-scrub, or get someone else to manipulate computER images in the theatre.

Surgeons operate in an environment where they need to maintain sterility at all times. The new gesture-based systems allow surgery teams to maintain a sterile environment, while being able to view and manipulate medical images through a combination of gesture and voice control.

The touchless interaction software was developed by Lancaster’s Dr Gonzalez, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research.

Dr Rouncefield said: “This project on ‘Touchless Interaction’ has successfully combined the skills and knowledge of social and computer scientists with the professional experience of surgeons, to design and develop an application that is already proving of real benefit in the operating theatre.”

Professor Kenton O’Hara from Microsoft Research said “Adapting the technology for neurosurgery has allowed us to understand how the system works across different surgical domains.

“As well as refining the gesture set, the new system incorporates enhanced voice control enabling surgeons to control the system using only voice leaving both hands free to work with surgical instruments.”