Kinect hacked to perform Medical Surgeries

Looks like Kinect can do a LOT more than merely being a tool for entertainment.

Kinect, Microsoft’s motion sensing device has been implemented to be used in medical surgeries by graduate students of University of Washington. Precisely, Kinect has been hacked (but, this time for a good purpose) to make it work with medical surgical robots.

Scientists have been working with a number of gadgets to perform and felicitate delicate medical surgeries and operations for a long time. They are using surgical robots but there are some problems which can prove fatal for patients. So the students at UW has programmed Kinect to counter these issues and make the surgeries more safe to carry out.

Well, the common problem which arise with robots, in simple terms, is that the doctors who are controlling the robots don’t have a sense of touch. They can’t feel it if the robotic instrument hits a bone or goes through the wrong vein. Their joystick keeps moving but they are unable to know exactly what the instrument is doing.

“For robotics-assisted surgeries, the surgeon has no sense of touch right now,” said Howard Chizeck, UW professor of electrical engineering. “What we’re doing is using that sense of touch to give information to the surgeon, like ‘You don’t want to go here.’”

So, in order to eliminate this inconsistency, Electrical engineering student, Fredrik Ryden wrote the code for Kinect to map and react to environments in three dimensions, and send spatial information about that environment back to the user.

This places electronic restrictions as to where the tool can be moved. If there is a bone and the instrument stops, the joystick will also be jammed, or else if it’s moving along a bone, the joystick will also follow the same path. And that’s not all, it’s possible to define restricted areas in the body (vital organs) in order to limit the entry of the instrument into those areas.

“We could define basically a force field around, say, a liver,” said Chizeck. “If the surgeon got too close, he would run into that force field and it would protect the object he didn’t want to cut.”

Kinect has forced-feedback mechanism which is one of the most important part of this whole system.

Though, CT scans as their first choice for defining these areas, they eventually came up with the idea of using a “depth camera,” which is actually a sensor that can detect movement in three dimensions by measuring reflecting infrared radiation to automatically define those regions.

Kinect is also proving quiet economical for this purpose asexplained by Ryden.

“It’s really good for demonstration because it’s so low-cost, and because it’s really accessible,” Ryden, who designed the system during one weekend, said. “You already have drivers, and you can just go in there and grab the data. It’s really easy to do fast prototyping because Microsoft’s already built everything.”

Before the idea to use Kinect for such serious practices, a similar system would have cost around $50,000, Chizeck said.

All of the above is quiet fascinating and a interesting concept, if done correctly, the day is not really far when a critical operation in far-flung areas of the world would be possible just by using this Kinect-integrated system and the existing satellites, with doctors controlling the robots wirelessly and without being physically available there.

How cool would that be?