Thursday, June 19, 2008

Doctors Test Gestural Interface During Surgery

Leave the keyboard and mouse behind, because gestural interfaces are the hot new thing. Touch based screens are nothing new but researchers have been working on a new system of purely based on motion instead of touch.

The new system would track movements of the hands or arms, allowing users to gesture to literally scroll around images on screen. Microsoft recently announced that their newest OS, Windows 7, will rely heavily on gestures and touch and of course gadgets like the iPhone have the pinching gesture which allows you to shrink or expand items.

But this new system of motion detection will allow you to leave all that behind.

Developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and tested at a Washington, D.C. hospital, the new gestural interface was designed to enable doctors to manipulate digital images during medical procedures by motioning instead of touching a screen, keyboard or mouse which compromises sterility and could spread infection, according to a just released article.

The June article," A Gesture-based Tool for Sterile Browsing of Radiology Images" in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (2008;15:321-323, DOI 10.1197/jamia.M24), reports on what the authors believe is the first time a hand gesture recognition system was successfully implemented in an actual "in vivo" neurosurgical brain biopsy. It was tested at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

According to lead researcher Juan P. Wachs, a recent Ph.D. recipient from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management at BGU, "A sterile human-machine interface is of supreme importance because it is the means by which the surgeon controls medical information, avoiding patient contamination, the operating room (OR) and the other surgeons." This could replace touch screens now used in many hospital operating rooms which must be sealed to prevent accumulation or spreading of contaminants and requires smooth surfaces that must be thoroughly cleaned after each procedure – but sometimes aren't. With infection rates at U.S. hospitals now at unacceptably high rates, our system offers a possible alternative."

The new system, simply known as Gestix, utilizes a Canon VC-C4 camera, positioned above a large flat screen monitor, using an Intel Pentium and a Matrox Standard II video-capturing device. When surgeons first start the system, they work through a set of initial calibration stages. Where the system begins recognizing the surgeons' hand gestures.

In the second stage surgeons must learn and implement eight navigation gestures, rapidly moving the hand away from a "neutral area" and back again. This movement scrolls the image. They also learn to zoom in and out by rotating their hand clockwise or counterclockwise. To avoid misleading signals, when the doctor is done, they drop their hand which triggers a sleep mode.


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