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Taiwanese Eye Doctor Builds AR Training Machine For Cataract Operations

Patients worldwide are waiting for a chance to get a cataract operation so they can see clearly again, heading off blindness. There aren’t enough doctors to do the surgery.

That schism inspired Taiwanese eye doctor Huang Yu-Hsuan to design operation training equipment using augmented reality.

A cataract is a clouding lens inside the eye. The cataract surgery aims to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens to recover visions.

“The most important step in a cataract operation is to open a perfectly round lid like on a tuna can with the diameter less than one-centimeter,” said Huang in an interview with Business Next. When the lid gets too big or some cracks appear around the lid could both affect patient’s vision after the surgery.

Hard for doctors now

The intense precision needed for cataract surgery makes it hard for a single eye doctor to lead operations, Huang explained in the interview. The physician must now spend at least two years of training to perform an operation without help.

Currently, most doctors train themselves for cataract operations putting pig eyes or silicone eyes under a microscope. More experienced doctor guide the process with a mirror.

Doctors can see their mistakes only by craning their necks to look down over the microscope to see their hands, Huang said.

Experienced doctors often keep busy schedules and don’t always make it to cataract surgery training sessions. Their absences lengthen the learning process.

Huang wants to let inexperienced eye doctors improve their cataract operation skills in less time.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataracts are responsible for 51% of blindness in the global population. In Taiwan, more than a million people suffer from this ailment of the eyes.

Learning surgery with artificial reality technology

Huang’s team created the CatAR microscope, also known as Scope+, as a cataract surgery training setup that can do basic training and evaluate learning results.

The augmented reality-enabled microscope includes parts from 3D printers as well as virtual reality gadgets by Oculus and HTC Vive. It features 4K image resolution and actual surgery forceps, creating an experience as similar as possible to reality.

In March 2017, Huang did an experiment with 28 eye doctors as he hoped the CatAR tools would ‘tell different user behaviors from inexperienced to expert.”

The results: 3D operation scenes built by computers can let less experienced eye doctors know how human eyes deteriorate, a key part of the training process.

The device received first place in Best Demo category at User Interface Software and Technology Symposium, where it first appeared in 2015, beating other participants from MIT, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan and Disney Research.

By 2015 the device was at its first-stage prototype and named Scope+. Huang has invited some eye doctors in Taiwan to test it for potential wider use. He had developed it the same year with three people at National Taiwan University years.

An eye doctor with technology education

Huang, a graduating of the Chang Gung University medical school Taiwan, Huang is a PhD student in networking and multimedia at National Taiwan University, where he also works part-time as an attending physician in the ophthalmology department.

His interest in coding started from third grade in elementary school. In his fifth year at Chang Gung University, he teamed up with classmates to attend a national Java programming contest. Their medical software won first place.

During his internship at ophthalmology department in National Taiwan University Hospital, Huang realized that hospital work was still done in older ways rather than using new technology.

After that he began to contemplate how to link technology with traditional medical practices.

“There are often gaps in the communications between engineers and doctors, because they don’t understand each other’s terms in the field,” said Huang. “The medical care market is actually pretty conservative. If there’s a 95-score new brand versus a 90-score old product, the latter is often the one being chosen.”

Hospitals would rather follow the safe but old steps than trying out new things, he believes.

Based on feedback from academics, Huang hoped to use technology in ophthalmology someday in the future.To sell CatAR, he plans to establish a company, hire a staff and look for investors.

News source is from Business Next.