Iltifat Husain MD contributed to this piece

Microsoft’s Kinect accessory for the Xbox has changed the way children of all ages interact with their video games.

Removing the remote controller completely and using human gestures to translate commands to a game has a novel appeal to many people (The Wii deserves a bulk of this credit).

There have been a number of hacks that help with everything from shopping to giving presentations using gestures. British surgeons have recently taken the Kinect to the next level by creating a “hack” that enables touchless viewing and manipulation of images while performing vascular surgery.

“Developed in conjunction with Microsoft Research and Lancaster University, the software for the imaging surgery system was created by researchers from King’s Imaging Sciences department to help surgeons during complex aneurysm procedures. The computer program takes the 3D image of a patient’s anatomy, and produces several 2D images (which look like x-rays) from different view directions. The Kinect technology allows the surgeon to operate the imaging system themselves, rather than instructing an assistant to do so.”

In the past, we have mentioned the potential applications for surgeons. If they do not have to physically touch a surface area during crucial times like operations, they will be less likely to break their sterile field and therefore, decrease the chance of the patient getting an infection. This can be accomplished by the physician through a combination of voice and gesture commands.

And while experienced surgeons aren’t going to be breaking their surgical field anyways — more practical applications of this technology are they enable surgeons to get a better view of patient anatomy, especially when they are looking for abnormal pathology such as tumors.

The Kinect technology being developed also has the benefit of decreasing the need for assistants. A surgeon can perform manipulation of visuals without having to use an intermediary, which will decrease miscommunication and subsequent errors.

If this technology catches on, it could replace the need for a sterile covering on an iPad. While a sterile, disposable cover is something the iMedicalApps team has previously reported on, this technology could further reduce the need to come into contact with a touchscreen surface.

This is further emphasized by Mr Tom Carrell, Senior Lecturer at King’s College London and vascular surgeon: “This technology is very exciting as it allows me to easily and precisely control the imaging I need during operations. Touchless interaction means there is no compromise in the sterility of the operating field or in patient safety.”

The ultimate aim is to develop a touchless interaction in surgery toolkit that can be used in any hospital or system interested in applying touchless interaction to their imaging system.

Sources: CNET and King’s College London