Surgeons both home and away are getting a unique opportunity to hone their skills.
In this case, the augmented reality surgery app is used to scan physical models of organs made from hyper-realistic aqua gel, designed to mimic the texture of human tissue.
This scan generates a digital representation of the organ, which is displayed on the trainee’s phone and provides instructions that feedback when a procedure is successfully completed.
Trainees can also film their work for review from experienced surgical trainers.
The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) is delivering software that allows trainees to perform “surgery” through their smartphones in a pioneering augmented reality project.
The kits – set to be used in both the UK and less developed areas of the world – aim to remove training barriers caused by ongoing global disruption due to the pandemic, by allowing surgeons to practice vital lifesaving skills at home.
The Scottish Consortium backing the NMIS is comprised of Organlike, producing the visual models of organs, along with NHS Highland, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Vivolution, KWWK Ltd, 4c Engineering and Aseptium.
Commenting on the augmented reality project, Danny McMahon, Digital and Metrology Lead at NMIS, said: “Our software works along with Organlike’s hyper-real models to provide guidance and training, as well as feedback on performance. While there is no replacement for the real thing, we can help prepare trainees for taking the next step in their training.
“Coronavirus restrictions are lifting. We expect there to be an increasing demand for a more flexible approach to surgical training going forward. The application for this technology extends far beyond Scotland and although it’s still relatively early days for the project we are already excited about its potential,” he added.
Augmented reality has been around for a while, the technology long-considered perfected via Pokémon Go – the winner among a sea of high-profile failures in trying to effectively utilise the tech.
Now, we’re seeing applications with more tangible, real-world benefits.
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Discussing the potential of the augmented reality surgery kits, Professor Will Shu, founder and director of Organlike, said: “Augmented reality is the perfect complementary technology to accompany our models and this partnership is really exciting.
“This technology could help trainee surgeons who can’t currently access facilities to work in their own space.
“Our hope is that our product will form an important part of future training programmes across the world,” he adds.
As well as helping train surgeons in the UK, the technology can help medical professionals in less developed areas of the world where training facilities are scarce or non-existent.
Kits have already been delivered to three countries in Africa, with discussions ongoing for other territories around the globe.
Professor Angus Watson, Member of the Council of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, weighed in: “Surgical simulation represents the future for our profession. The public expect us to uphold the highest standards of surgical skill and care and the College has been at the forefront of this for over 500 years.
“I am particularly proud that we can make training opportunities equitable across the globe and I am delighted that this kit will be available both in Scotland and in Africa.”