Remote presence (or telepresence) is a way for experts to provide on-site service or guidance without actually being there. This can be done through many methods, ranging from a simple phone call to walk a user through a procedure to Cisco’s immersive wall size conference setup. The potential benefits in the clinic are similarly wide ranging, with applications for remote consults, distance education, procedure training, or simply getting service for the latest medical device in the clinic that no one can find the manual for.
VIPAAR, based in Birmingham, AL, offers a platform for remote video support that aims to work with most of the common devices already in the clinic or field site, with infrastructure requirements that really only apply to the expert side of the call.
Here’s VIPAAR’s video that shows the basics of the technology, using a non-medical example, but getting the point across:
Basically the VIPAAR platform allows the expert to do real time annotation of the video coming from the end-user’s device. The end user holds a tablet or smart phone and looks at the video feed coming from the camera on the other side, as if they were videoing or taking a picture of the scene. The expert also sees that video feed and can annotate or point to portions of the screen. What the VIPAAR platform does is allow the end-user to see the hand or notations of the expert on their screen, overlaid on the live video feed from the camera.
VIPAAR also offers a video showing a simple medical application:
Matt May, the Director of Product Management at VIPAAR said they noticed that “everyone in healthcare is looking to cut costs, so this is a way to have the best experts be there without travel.” VIPAAR already provides field service for Department of Defense contractors and some medical device companies, mostly those with a limited field representative presence who want to expand their customer base to places that they can’t afford or are not allowed to place people.
One of the company’s founders is a neurosurgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and has used the technology in the past to do surgical proctoring, but May says that is no longer a focus of the company. However they do continue to look at OR applications.
Right now they support iOS, Android, PC, and Mac platforms. VIPAAR plans to support Google Glass in the future, since they see it as an obvious application for their technology.
Mr. May also did a demo with Medgadget using an iPad. After showing the technology, as seen in the above videos, we also did a re-creation of the middle school activity “Picture Dictation” both with and without the video overlay assistance. For those not familiar, the game involves a person directing someone to copy an image that the person drawing cannot see. In our version someone in the VIPAAR offices described a simple line drawing of a house to Medgadget, who was on the other end of the video feed. The VIPAAR user could see what the Medgadget user was doing, but the Medgadget user could only see what was on the iPad screen, not the original drawing. This was done twice, first with only the un-annotated video feed and audio instructions from VIPAAR, similar to what a Skype or Google Hangout session would be like, and second with the use of the VIPAAR annotation assistance. The results are shown below:
On the left is the original image that was described, in the middle the first attempt without video overlay, and on the right is with the video overlay. As you can see both were pretty accurate, but the rightmost image is a little more accurate and took less time to draw. While not a perfect experiment, it does demonstrate a bit what the VIPAAR technology can do to improve video communication.