UAB puts experts anywhere through virtual technology

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The University of Alabama's expertise could soon be anywhere thanks to a new technology.

The Virtual Interactive Presence is a software technology that uses virtual and augmented reality to combine local and distant video elements into one image. The technology takes video of a pair of hands in one location and overlays with video of hands in a different location while both people see the same image.

Initially, it was aimed at professional training scenarios but UAB engineers say the technology could be used to help just about any type of expertise spread over long distances.

The technology was developed by neurosurgeon Barton Guthrie, M.D., to help train more surgeons while the downturned economy stretched budgets. "Facing increasing economic and resource pressures, we are looking for a new way to export our medical expertise from UAB and share our experts' knowledge as a leading center of excellence with other medical professionals worldwide," said Guthrie.

"We have designed a technology that is useful across industries and disciplines," says Alan Shih, Ph.D., a UAB research professor of mechanical engineering. "The Virtual Interactive Presence gives operators a chance to virtually access needed experts in real-time so that medical professionals can have assistance in performing life-saving procedures, soldiers can be safer dismantling bombs in a war zone or mechanics can more quickly repair airplane systems when time is crucial."

UAB has licensed the technology to Birmingham-based VIPAAR LLC to develop and commercialize it.

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