Anyone who has watched sports on television in the past 30 years has seen a “telestrator” in action. John Madden became famous in part for using telestrations to annotate his football color commentary with X’s, O’s, and arrows to demonstrate the inner workings of the game. The telestrations we are familiar with are displayed on a single television monitor, so they are limited to two-dimensional images. However, for robotic surgery, three-dimensional images are provided by two monitors, which display two complementary images that, when presented to the surgeon’s two eyes, generate a dual-image, stereo-view of the surgical site. According to the ’166 patent, it can be helpful for a mentor (e.g., a teacher or instructor) to provide guidance to the operator of the system using telestrations, but a mono-visual telestration overlaying only one of the images can be difficult to use. The ’166 patent discloses a system and method for generating and displaying three-dimensional, stereo-view telestration graphics using both the left-eye image and the right-eye image.
According to its website, Intuitive Surgical, founded in 1995, is “the global technology leader in robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery (MIS)” and markets the da Vinci Surgical System, the first robotic surgical system cleared by the FDA. Worldwide, there are now almost 1,700 da Vinci systems installed in over 1,500 hospitals. The company’s website includes a number of videos that demonstrate the uses and advantages of the da Vinci system.
UPDATE: For anyone too squemish to watch the da Vinci system being used in an operation, I recently saw this video that shows a da VInci system being used to fold a tiny paper airplane.
As would be expected for such intricate medical devices, Intuitive Surgical holds hundreds of U.S. and foreign patents and hundreds of field-of-use licenses on various aspects of the company’s technology, including the user’s console, robotic arms, vision system, and positioning system. In 2010, the company was awarded 30 U.S. patents, and has received 11 U.S. patents so far in 2011, including the ’166 patent.