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IMPLANT: Elise Wolf Talks Future of AR

Doctor utilizes augmented reality (AR) in surgery.

During the NASS 2021 meeting, Enhatch interviewed leaders working in top health tech companies about their work and how it impacts the Intelligent Surgery Ecosystem. In this interview Ecosystem Specialist Ashley Porto sat down with Elise Wolf VP of SmartTRAK.

Elise Wolf has a strong industry pulse for technology and innovation in the orthopedics space. She serves as general manager at SmartTRAK, a digital content intelligence platform. 

“For the medical device industry, my expertise specifically is in enabling technology,” says Wolf. “I have a background in bioengineering and a math masters degree. I actually designed robots for the department of defense prior to getting into medical devices about 20 years ago.”

Wolf worked out of Carnegie Mellon University where her team was developing biologically inspired robots to blow up landmines.

“It doesn't look quite so cool by today's standards, but it was really cutting edge back in the day,” says Wolf. “And I've worked on the hardware side of implants doing both product development, marketing, and business development, as well as consulting for emerging medical technologies for a number of years.” 

Wolf feels like she has come full circle in her career once again but learning about robotics in orthopedics. 

“I find the enabling tech space to be fascinating because it's literally changing every single day,” says Wolf. 

While new enabling technologies are constantly being developed, the adoption process can be a long road. Plus, with many enabling technologies, device companies are still in the early stages of adoption. 

“I just think that it's going to start to really catch on,” says Wolf. “Having said that, I think some of the navigation and the augmented reality type technologies, that's an interesting space as well, because they're much less expensive and it’s quicker to use. I think we're going to see maybe a lot of that incorporated into robotics and some really cool new platforms.”

Augmented reality is rapidly growing in popularity for orthopedic use. While many surgeons use this technology as a training tool, soon many will start to use this during operations.

“I went to the international society for computer assisted orthopedic surgery meeting [...]  in 2019 and all of those surgeons are very pro-enabling tech,” says Wolf. “And everyone kept talking about AR being used for surgical training, but no one was talking about intra op AR and all of these companies that I was talking to that were developing the technologies, kept telling me we're going to have FDA clearance fairly soon.” 

Many companies are exploring possibilities of augmented reality. While traditionally AR is associated with hololens goggles, many companies are utilizing this technology to be used through smart devices. 

“There are a couple of other technologies that are tablet based, even iPhone based, that are kind of coming out with AR solutions,” says Wolf. “What we think of as AR right now is going to be changing dramatically over the next couple of years too. It's a little early in the adoption phase to really project what that adoption curve is going to look like and how rapid the adoption is going to take place. But it's definitely here and it's an exciting new area!”