Technology used for Hollywood movies and virtual-reality games is now being used in a new way that could potentially save lives. A local tech company is introducing virtual reality into the operating room.
"This is our virtual operating room," said Jeremy Jarrett, executive vice president of Kinetic Vision in Evendale, describing a space in the company's complex set aside for simulating an operating room.
The physical room itself is a mostly blank canvas. Everything comes to life on a large television monitor.
"It uses two really great technologies: motion capture and virtual reality combined," Jarrett said.
Engineers at Kinetic Vision spent about two months developing the content, code and the technology to create the virtual environment that researchers, doctors and medical device developers can use when a real operating room isn't readily available. Jarrett said in addition to motion capture and virtual reality, gaming technology was used as well. He said Cincinnati is seeing an emergence of new technologies.
“Beyond just medical technology, Cincinnati has an explosion of technology in the area of additive manufacturing, virtual reality, robotics. And technologies like artificial intelligence are going to be powering them all,” Jarrett said.
In addition to allowing medical device developers to test their products in a virtual setting, the program allows them to test several scenarios, likely beyond what they could do in an actual operating room, said Jarrett.
“An artificial-intelligence camera view can be watching that algorithm, and we can train it on millions of scenarios with hundreds of different types of doctors in different color scrubs, different nationalities, different techniques, and we can run through that at hyper speed so that that AI system has seen all of the little edge cases that you couldn’t produce in reality,” he said.
Another result of using the virtual setting is a cost savings for companies. Instead of building an operating room with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, the virtual operating room uses computers, monitors, gaming suits and virtual-reality goggles to bring everything to life.
“It uses infrared cameras to basically triangulate the reflective markers that are on my body," said Chris Ruggiero, creative director at Kinetic Vision.
"Being able to bring the full body into the motion, into the scene, it allows you to collaborate and see each other. But, more importantly, it kind of lays the foundation for machine learning applications to view that human behavior, that human movement after we’ve recorded the session,” Ruggiero said.
They use 3D printers to create the virtual surgical instruments, and reflective markers placed on the simulated instruments also allow them to see the movement of devices, and the proximity to the virtual patient and others in the virtual setting.
Ironically, developing a virtual operating room was not a planned event for the company. But the combination of the pandemic and a need from a customer made it a necessity.
"During the pandemic, we were trying to arrange some meetings in an operating room with real devices and real equipment and it just wasn't possible," said Jarrett.
While a full suit gives the full effect of the virtual operating room, goggles alone can also transport you into the simulated setting. In addition, everyone doesn't need to be in the same room.
"You can roll out a training platform to the world very quickly, and to potential users who don't have an operating room set-up yet," Jarrett added.