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Kinect in my Operating Room? It's More Likely Than You Think

The gesture-reading device gets deployed alongside scalpels and forceps in a London hospital.

By Andy Patrizio on Fri, 05/18/12 - 4:29pm.

We knew there would be some creative uses for the Kinect for Windows, and this is no exception. A London hospital has begun testing Kinect in the operating room, helping the doctor to manipulate a camera without having to touch it.

Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London began trials of a Kinect-driven camera last week that would sense body position, and by waving his or her hands, the surgeon can sift through medical images, such as CT scans or real-time X-rays, while in the middle of an operation.

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During surgery, a surgeon will stop and consult medical images anywhere from once an hour to every few minutes. So the surgeon doesn't have to leave the table, the doctor will work with assistants, but sometimes, if you want things done to your satisfaction, you have to do it yourself.

Dr. Tom Carrell, a consultant vascular surgeon at Guy's and St Thomas', described an operation on a patient's aorta earlier this month to New Scientist. "Up until now, I'd been calling out across the room to one of our technical assistants, asking them to manipulate the image, rotate one way, rotate the other, pan up, pan down, zoom in, zoom out." With the Kinect, he says, "I had very intuitive control."

Carrell used the system to look at a 3D model of a section of the abdominal aorta, the largest artery running down the abdomen from the heart. He used Kinect to manipulate a fluoroscopic X-ray camera inside the patient as well as navigate the 3D model. He said it was all done non-verbally with just a few manipulations of his hand and kept the flow of the operation going quickly.

The Kinect system uses one-handed gestures for the most common actions, such as rotating the 3D model or placing a marker on the image, along with voice commands. Other functions, such as panning or zooming, require two hands. Obviously, pinch-to-zoom hasn't made its way to the Kinect yet.

It all shows amazing potential for Kinect and leaves me wondering why Microsoft is the only company taking any type of lead on this kind of effort. Have you heard of a similar effort and hardware? If so, post it below.