Google to bring imaging, sensor technology to the operating room

Google is providing sensor and software technology, not its robotics work

Google's technology may eventually make its way into operating rooms and help surgeons with their procedures.

In separate announcements, Google and medical device and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson said that they're working together on developing a robot-assisted surgical platform.

Google's life sciences division is contributing advanced imaging software and sensor technology to the project, said a company spokeswoman. Johnson & Johnson said that its Ethicon division is bringing its experience developing surgical robots.

While Google has worked on robotics, that development isn't part of the Johnson & Johnson collaboration. Instead, Google efforts will aim at combining medical data and presenting it to surgeons in a more useful manner.

During an operation, surgeons rely on several screens to provide information like medical images, test results or guidance on how to operate on an atypical condition, said Google. Eventually, Google's software could show this data on one screen by overlaying it on the interface that surgeons use to control the robots and delivering information when it's needed.

Google's software could also highlight structures in the body that are difficult to view on a screen, such as blood vessels or nerves.

Google and Johnson & Johnson didn't offer additional information on the partnership, such as if the companies are planning to work on equipment for specific surgeries.

The Google spokeswoman said it's still very early days for the collaboration, with many unknowns and years of work ahead.

This isn't Google's first effort on the health IT front: its projects include a prototype contact lens that measures blood sugar levels in a person's tears and a pill that could identify diseases including cancer.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
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