I wonder how many people would agree that using technology to improve things was ultimately their main reason for using it? Sometimes I think this understanding is lost or even forgotten altogether as technology that inspired change some years ago becomes taken for granted with its everyday use or is no longer aligned to support a process and therefore simply used as it’s the only option available.
So when we were recently contacted by a student project team from Kingston University with an idea for a software application that encompassed this belief I have to say I got a little excited! It may get some of you a little excited too!
As I say we were contacted by the Kinetica project team from the School of Computing and Information Systems Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing at Kingston University, London. They needed our help with providing some software development kits so they could develop a medical software application which had been successful entered into the Imagine Cup 2012, a worldwide Microsoft competition, which looks for students to create something where technology helps solve real-world challenges. Their application, called MediKinect, addresses the real world problem surgeons face when utilising medical images to support their work during operations. The practicalities of the current situation are as follows.
Surgeon in mid-flow of operating needs to get a better look at the situation so temporarily leaves the operating table to review the necessary images taken of the patient on a nearby PC. Nothing that wrong here you may think and I include myself here. However, there are greater forces at work and the reality of the situation is very different when it is brought to your attention the doctor may need to do this more than a few times over the duration of an operation. In fact conservative estimates suggest it could add up to on average an additional 90 minutes operating time. Furthermore each time a doctor addresses the PC they are required to touch a keyboard that in turn requires re-scrub and glove before returning to the patient as they have not found a better way to sterilise this requirement.
What the Kinetica Project team have done is to think around this problem and come up with a software application that many of us will not believe isn’t already widely used. MediKinect is fundamentally a voice and gesture recognition software tool for medical operating theatres. Think of the film ‘Minority Reports’ or take a look at Corning’s mesmerising ‘You Tube’ video “A day made of Glass 2” (about 3 mins in) and you will understand the concept of where this is going.
Last week I was lucky enough to visit them and have a look at their first prototype. I could feel the tension as I’ve felt it myself when in a live demo situation. However, I’m pleased to report unlike some of my own experiences this demonstration was flawless. I sat with open mouth as voice commands were given and a medical image of a 3D skull were displayed on a flat screen on the wall. And as you will have seen watching someone play on a games console like the WII (but without a controller) the image could be manipulated by the simple movements of the hand.
It sort of makes sense if you think of the interactions we share with one another and how we use sound, sight, touch, even smell to get to a successful outcome. Why then would this not apply to our interactions with technology applications? The more senses you can use, wouldn’t that improve the chances of a successful outcome?
Anyway! What does this mean for this particular software application, well apart from indicating a very promising future ahead for its developers you only have to reference the corning video to realise the use of this type of technology application will improve the procedures within operation theatres and ultimately the successful outcome of the patient. For me this example of technology improving things is inspiring and certainly one I wanted to share.
If you would like to read a press release then you can do so clicking here. Otherwise, the next stage of the competition will shortly be announced as project teams must submit their entries by the end of May. Everyone at DSCallards wishes Team Kinetica every success and will be following their progress. I’m sure we will be hearing more the this in the not too distance future.
Written by Ben Hedger, DSCallards