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Kinect PACS startup catches Microsoft's eye

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | June 07, 2012

And then there's GestSure. The idea behind the startup is simple: surgeons in the operating theater performing complicated procedures often need to consult MRI and CT images. But any time they walk over to the PACS workstation and use the keyboard or mouse to search for scans, they've left the "sterile field" and need to wash their hands and replace their gloves before returning to the patient.

However, with a Kinect-operated workstation, doctors could stay within the sterile field throughout the entire operation, waving their hands in the air to search for images remotely. This would save time for the doctor -- and the patient on the table.

PACS enters the picture

Tremaine, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, said he founded his first company while still a college student, studying mechanical engineering at University of Waterloo, in Ontario.

He said he got interested in the Kinect because of his academic research on machine vision. The Kinect, at $150 a pop, is much cheaper than similar technology in the field that was normally priced at thousands of dollars, well out of reach to all but specialists.

"When the Kinect came out, I was like, 'Oh my goodness!'" he said. "I was running around telling everybody the potential for the application."

The connection to PACS emerged during a run with company co-founders Greg Brigley, a computer engineer who worked for the past eight years at Audioscan, a hearing aid testing company, and Dr. Matt Strickland. Tremaine said after he mentioned the Kinect, Strickland, now a surgery resident at University of Toronto, brought up the problem of manipulating images during operations, a hassle he was overly familiar with.

"He was the guy standing outside the sterile field going through the PACS," Tremaine said. "I was like, that's probably solvable, and in three weeks we had a prototype. In three months, we were in the operating room."

Hardware, evidence and markets

Tremaine said the company plans to sell a complete package to customers, including the Kinect, an image processor and a feedback monitor. Once the system's launched, Tremaine estimates a quarter of the surgical markets in the U.S. and Canada could benefit from it either because they use imaging in nearly all surgeries or they use it often enough to justify the investment.

As the team works on getting the product ready, they're also trying to gather clinical evidence for it. A small proof-of-concept test was conducted in Toronto last year, and a paper based on that work is coming out in the Canadian Journal of Surgery, Tremaine said. However, he didn't know when it would be released. "Unfortunately, the academic publication cycle is quite protracted," he said.

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