Augmented reality visor to assist doctors

Scientists are to develop an augmented reality (AR) surgical visor capable of superimposing a patient’s X-ray images and other medical information in 3D unison with their anatomy.

The visor aims to prevent surgeons from having to look away during delicate procedures to view patient data, which could lead to reductions in surgery times and improvements in surgical accuracy, according to the researchers.

The Video Optical See-Through Augmented Reality surgical System (VOSTARS) will display a patient’s anaesthetic data, heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rates conveniently into the surgeon’s field of vision.

The project, which is funded under Horizon 2020, forecasts significant improvement in surgical accuracy and reductions in the time spent under anaesthetic by at least 11%.

Project co-ordinator Dr Vincenzo Ferrari, biomedical engineering researcher at the department of information engineering at the University of Pisa, Italy, said: “With this state-of-the-art, highly ergonomic visor, we intend to provide all the information required to improve surgery.

“The primary goal is to reduce not just surgery times, but also the time spent under anaesthetic and the cost involved in any operation. For the patient, this means saving 20 minutes of every three hours of surgery.”

The visor incorporates small, highly luminous micro displays and LED optical waveguides to project 2D X-ray images into the vision of the wearer. The system will work by capturing a surgeon’s perspective using a head-mounted camera and then merging this footage with real-time patient data.

Ferrari added: “A clinician can move freely while still seeing the patient, the hybrid X-ray image and all of critical data all at once in a surgical dashboard inside the screen.”

Already three months into the three-year project, VOSTARS aims to have a working prototype of the device ready for May 2018. Initially being trialled on a number of procedures to the head, the project hopes to be available to end users in three years, with mass production underway by 2022.