Augmented reality paves the way for the future of surgery

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The latest in a series of surgical innovations from product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants is exploring how augmented reality (AR) could transform surgery. The company is showcasing an example of how an augmented surgical system might lower the risk involved in operations – and lead to better results for patients.

Using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, Cambridge Consultants has developed a highly intuitive AR surgical system that equips surgeons with ‘X-ray vision’ – making it possible to see inside a patient in real time, while operating through minimally invasive openings.

Having the correct information in the right place at the right time is essential for successful surgery, yet the operating theatre is typically a very busy environment with limited access to any type of real-time imaging. The advanced system demonstrated by Cambridge Consultants also uses data visualisation to give surgeons easy access to patient records and operating information while they work.

Minimally invasive surgery – so-called keyhole surgery – is often complex yet performed through tiny incisions instead of one large opening. The next-generation AR system provides a real-time 3D interactive perspective of the inside of the patient, accurately guiding the surgeon in ways not previously possible.

It’s the latest example of how Cambridge Consultants combines off-the-shelf technology with its extensive expertise in next-generation device development, software, human factors and user-interface design, to create a truly revolutionary ‘smart’ system.

“AR has the potential to fundamentally change the surgical experience by giving the surgeon a new dimension of information in an easy-to-use way,” said Simon Karger, head of surgical and interventional products at Cambridge Consultants. “While today’s platforms still need to mature before they are ready for clinical deployment, it is clear to us that the underlying technology holds great promise for critical applications like surgery.

“This innovative development is the result of our extensive experience of surgical equipment innovation and our understanding of the operating theatre environment and workflow. It has the potential to enable more surgeons to carry out complex operations at lower risk and with better results for patients.”

In recent months, Cambridge Consultants has unveiled Axsis – one of the smallest known robots for surgical use. With an external body the size of a drinks can and instruments only 1.8 millimetres in diameter, the technology demonstrator used cataract surgery as an example of a procedure that could benefit from miniature robotics in the future.

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Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of 750 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, oil and gas, and wireless communications.

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R&D services which offers its clients a new way to innovate. Altran works alongside its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. In 2016, the Altran group generated revenues of €2.120bn. With a headcount of more than 30,000 employees, Altran is present in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit

  • AR and VR
  • Data science and analytics
  • Human factors
  • User experience


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