ProjectDR Brings Augmented Reality into Surgical Procedures by Projecting Internal Anatomy


Orange County, CA - January 26th 2018 -  Clinicians will soon have an alternative viewpoint to view internal viscera prior to patient incisions. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have developed a system that projects 3D imaging scans directly onto a patient that remain unhindered by movement.

“We wanted to create a system that would show clinicians a patient’s internal anatomy within the context of the body,” explained Ian Watts, a computing science graduate student and developer of the program, ProjectDR. Employing medical images such as CT scans and MRI data, ProjectDR uses bodily markers and infrared tracking cameras to maintain projected image alignment. The prominent obstacle to overcome during this process was image tracking even with patient motion. Watt’s solution was the custom production of written software allowing the components to work in tandem.

Ian Watts and Michael Fiest introduce ProjectDR

Potentially limitless in surgical benefits, the development team sees a future extension of ProjectDR technology into the sectors of research and education. “There are lots of applications for this technology, including teaching, physiotherapy, laparoscopic surgery and even surgical planning,” said Watts, the developer of the technology along with fellow graduate student Michael Fiest. Another benefit to ProjectDR is its capacity to present segmented images- like a specific blood vessel requiring surgeon focus. "It's like if you had a flashlight, and you could select a part of the body and show what's inside. If someone was standing, you could shine this projector at them and you could see their rib cage, spine, or other internal organ,” said Watts. Still within the development phase, Watts and his team are perfecting the system’s automatic calibration ability and plan to add an additional depth sensor.

To ready ProjectDR for hospital use the team plans to move forward with clinical trials. “Soon, we’ll deploy ProjectDR in an operating room in a surgical simulation laboratory to test the pros and cons in real-life surgical applications,” said Pierre Boulanger, professor in the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta and co-supervisor of the project. “We are [currently conducting] pilot studies to test the usability of the system for teaching chiropractic and physical therapy procedures,” added Greg Kawchuk, the other co-supervisor on the project from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. Upon preliminary study completion, the development team expects to deploy the system into real surgical pilot studies.

ProjectDR was presented last November at the Virtual Reality Software and Technology Symposium in Gothenburg, Sweden.


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