The Cutting Edge: 10 Companies Bringing Virtual Reality & AR to the OR

July 5, 2019
Updated: March 25, 2020
Written by Sam Daley

Can video games sharpen surgical skills? Yes. But we're not talking about Fortnite or Grand Theft Auto V. The kind in question are known as XR (“extended reality”), and they're not games in the popular sense, but rather augmented and virtual reality tools that help surgeons prep for operations and study 3D renderings of patients in order to maximize efficiency and minimize risk. Welcome to VR surgery.

Medical imaging has radically evolved over the past few decades with advances in ultrasonography, MRIs and more. Until recently, though, image display (on a 2D monitor) hadn't changed much since the 1950s. With VR and AR, surgeons now have pre-surgery access to 3D images of hearts, eyes, knee joints and lots else. In some cases, surgeons even use AR-enabled Haptic gloves to mimic the buzzing of saws and drills.

Virtual Reality in Surgery

Virtual reality is becoming the gold standard for the medical industry, especially in surgery. Surgeons are currently using tools that range from VR headsets to haptic gloves to mimic real surgical procedures; boosting preparedness and efficiency in the operating room.

Besides being a boon to surgical preparation, XR tools also help hospitals save time and money. The ability to study 3D scans before an operation helps surgeons thoroughly prep for each case and implement proactive, time-saving procedures. Another plus: storing images and patient data on one AR/VR platform reduces the need for expensive screens and unnecessary staff.

Here are 10 ways AR and VR benefit surgeons and patients alike.


vr ar applications surgery proprio


Location: Seattle, Washington

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: Proprio combines machine learning and AR to create ultra-precise 3D medical images. The imaging tools help surgeons see through obstructions and collaborate with colleagues on surgery plans. The built-in AI intelligence platform also analyzes the 3D rendering and stores and shares surgical data in real-time.  

Industry Impact: Proprio is runs pilot programs in neuro and orthopedic surgeries in hospitals like Seattle Children’s and University of Washington Medicine.


ar vr applications surgery immersivetouch


Location: Chicago, Illinois

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: ImmersiveTouch creates virtual reality solutions for surgical planning, training and education. The company’s ImmersiveView Surgical Plan platform generates 3D replicas from patient scans, allowing surgeons to study and collaborate with their team on surgical tactics. Using the Oculus Rift headset, surgeons are able to use a number of tools, like the cut, draw and measure tools, that emulate a real procedure.

Industry Impact: Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago and University of Texas hospitals all use the ImmersiveTouch platform to assist their surgeons in studying and planning surgeries.


vr ar applications surgery truevision


Location: Santa Barbara, California

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: TrueVision develops 3D digital visualization software and augmented reality tools that support surgeons in ophthalmology, neurosurgery and microsurgeries. The Digital Microscope Platform, TrueVision’s main product for digital surgery, converts existing microscopes into digital surgery systems that can produce AR and 3D images.

Industry Impact: TrueVision partnered with the OCULUS Pentacam AXL to use 3D imaging and real-time analytics computer guidance software in cataract and refractive eye procedures.


ar vr applications surgery echopixel


Location: Los Altos Hills, California

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: The EchoPixel interactive virtual reality surgical platform helps doctors to identify anatomy of interest and allows them to use the platform’s depth information to enhance detailed medical images in real-time.

Industry Impact: The EchoPIxel True 3D uses a wide variety of image datasets to produce anatomically correct, patient-specific 3D images. The company made international news for its 3D images of colons that help surgeons plan operations and produce real-time analytics.


ar vr applications surgery ossovr
Osso VR

Osso VR

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: Osso VR is a virtual reality surgical simulation platform that offers realistic hand-based interactions. The company’s VR focuses on practicing with the virtual tools that surgeons use for orthopedic and spine surgeries.

Industry Impact: Osso VR has developed an interactive platform where multiple surgeons can interact with one another and go through training lessons or practice procedures together.

ar vr applications fundamentalvr


Location: London, England

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: FundamentalVR delivers haptic simulators that let surgeons practice and sharpen their skills. Using realistic vibration patterns, the haptic technology gives doctors the feeling of holding actual tools. Combined with VR, the FundamentalVR ecosystem provides doctors with a lifelike platform to study surgeries and practice them.

Industry Impact: FundamentalVR has worked with well-known leaders across the health and tech industries, including Amazon, Oculus, Bayer and University College London Hospital.


ar vr applications surgery sentiar


Location: St. Louis, Missouri

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: SentiAR is a holographic augmented reality platform for intraprocedural clinical use. While they're performing a procedure, surgeons can view a 3D image of specific anatomy (it floats above the patient on the operating table) in real-time. The visualization is hands-free and gives surgeons in-depth insights about a patient’s health throughout the surgery.  

Industry Impact: The SentiAR platform has been successful in treating and analyzing cardiac arrhythmias in a lab environment. Consequently, Microsoft chosen the company to partner with them on a mixed reality platform.


ar vr applications surgery augmented intelligence
Augmented Intelligence

Augmented Intelligence

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: Augmented Intelligence creates AR and VR educational tools for doctors and medical students. The company’s Body Map helps students and professionals observe an intricately detailed, anatomically correct model of a human body so they can learn about different systems and practice their surgical skills.   

Industry Impact: Doctors at the Chang Gung Proton Therapy Center have used Augmented Intelligence’s AR tools to map a patient’s optimal lying position to administer proton therapy. Employing AI and algorithms, the center can treat a patient’s cancer more quickly and efficiently.


ar vr applications proximie


Location: Boston, Massachusetts

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: Proximie's suite of AR tools helps doctors find ailments in patients and describe surgeries using 3D models. They're able to scan a patient’s body, point out health problems (like tumors or broken bones) and use the images to show patients a step-by-step process of their potential surgery.

Industry Impact: Proximie was named one of 40 top digital innovators at the 2018 World Summit Awards for its breakthrough in healthcare and AR.


vr ar applications surgery surgical theater
Surgical Theater

Surgical Theater

Location: Los Angeles, California

How it’s using AR/VR in surgery: Surgical Theater created an VR-based Surgical Rehearsal Platform (SRP) for neurosurgical pre-op planning and rehearsal. The company’s platform scans 2D brain images and on-site VR specialists create individualized 3D models. The brain models are then used to help guide a patient through the surgery details and as a planning tool for the surgical team.

Industry Impact: NYU, the Mayo Clinic and UCLA all have used Surgical Theater’s VR brain modeling to plan surgeries and thoroughly explain the procedures to patients.

Images via Shutterstock and social media


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