IN “AVATAR”, a film that has enjoyed a certain modest success at the box office recently, 3D technology brought blue-skinned extraterrestrials to life. On June 10th, a similar innovation helped improve life on Earth when Iain Jourdan, a surgeon at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, in Guildford, England, donned polarising glasses to perform the first-ever laparoscopic surgery assisted by three-dimensional imaging.
The procedure he performed, a routine gall-bladder removal, is typically done by incising a slit in the patient’s navel, through which a tiny camera is inserted. Guided by the resulting video feed, the surgeon wields long-handled tools to excavate the gall bladder from its neighbouring organs before removing it though the slit. Until now, however, that video has been in two dimensions. Anyone who has tried threading a needle with one eye shut will understand that this is not ideal.
Past attempts to design a 3D display for use in the operating theatre have not worked. One prototype, a stereoscopic helmet worn by the surgeon, left users seasick after only a few minutes. The new system, manufactured by Solid-Look, a firm based in New York, abandons such missteps in favour of technology originally developed for the entertainment industry: 3D glasses and a specially modified television screen.