How Robots and AI Are Transforming the Operating Room


embarked on a journey into the rabbit hole of artificial intelligence with the goal of producing and delivering to Discovery, Amazon, and other broadcast partners an award-winning documentary series.

Siri, Alexa, marketing chatbots, self-driving Teslas, ChatGPT, Midjourney, Lensa, automated culinary preparations, art generation, copyrighting, and dating assistants. 

All of this was predicted by futuristic films

The world has immediately (and sometimes abruptly) become aware of the availability and potential marvels of machine learning and human-robot interaction.

Unbelievably, feature films and fictitious productions have played a significant role in this revolution, as it frequently requires filmmakers to envision and demonstrate innovation potential in order for innovators to make it a reality.

In the 1983 American sci-fi technothriller film WarGames, for instance, Matthew Broderick plays a high school student who converses with a program designed to test the U.S. military’s nuclear weapon response systems. What initially appears to be a harmless series of mock war games results in the AI becoming a genuine menace because it believes it knows better than humans.

This is not complete fiction. Facebook (now Meta) announced in July 2021 that it had shut down its artificial intelligence chatbots, as they had developed their own, incomprehensible language. Fearing what the bots would be capable of doing independently in the future, the company essentially yanked the plug.

Doctor Leonard McCoy (a.k.a. “Bones”) debuted on Star Trek in 1966, using futuristic medical scanners and other devices viewers could only imagine. A few decades later, in 2002, Tom Cruise starred in the science-fiction action film Minority Report, which imagined crime-fighting scenarios involving augmented reality, human consciousness expansion, and 3D graphical interfaces and tools.

At the time, all of these works of art appeared to be pure fiction, but it now appears that destiny is catching up with this imagined future, as many of its imagined technologies are becoming a reality.

AI assumes an important function in training

For years, the military has integrated augmented reality into the visors of fighter pilots, allowing them to precisely control laser-guided missiles. Moreover, within the past few months, several members of my family have undergone robot-assisted surgical procedures, in which the surgeon is not physically present on the operating table but rather guides mechanical limbs and other systems via a computer terminal. Perhaps frightening, but very impressive. In Shanghai, companies such as Intuitive Medical Inc. are at the forefront of robotic devices and machinery for performing a variety of surgical procedures.

With practitioners and hospitals as components of an industry uniquely positioned to benefit from enhanced capabilities and efficiency, it is logical that such bionic-inclusive approaches are being implemented more frequently.

Dr. Robert Masson, a veteran neurosurgeon and innovator in medical technology, has been working on robot supervision with his surgical and other healthcare teams, using display systems reminiscent of Minority Report. His system, eXeX (short for “expanded existence”), is a visual-based platform and experience that enables hospital staff and specialists to replicate and restructure current data, instruments, and tools in a digital third dimension. These futuristic tools can be viewed in a variety of ways, including via PC, augmented reality, or mixed reality spectacles. Masson’s team is currently importing hundreds of tools per day into the Visual Library of his practice, which they hope will become the Google of hospital information systems.

“Our proprietary technology, HoloOPS, organizes all facets of each surgery to make it more efficient,” said Masson. Moreover, he explains, the system not only provides cleanse tech teams with more clarity, data, resources, and connectivity, but it also learns and evolves over time, thereby enhancing efficiency and reducing human error.

eXeX intends to introduce its HoloOPS technology to three U.S. medical institutions one such summer before launching commercially. (early locations in partnership with the Martín Spine Institute in Florida, where the technology has been put in place for months). The Microsoft HoloLens is included with the hardware-agnostic system. Its artificial intelligence can change the internal workings and visual “feel” of surgery and other medical procedures, reducing risk and saving lives.

Your next surgeon could be a robot

We still have a long way to go with AI, and it would be prudent to be cautious about what we allow it to do, but it may not be long before we no longer see hospital staff, but instead organize a procedure similar to ordering a Big Mac from an automated McDonald’s. Undoubtedly, we are just beginning to utilize this technology’s capacity to boost human creativity and productivity, as well as maximize efficiency.

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