Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Eagleson, Roy A.

2nd Supervisor

de Ribaupierre, Sandrine



This thesis addresses the pressing issue of surgical errors through the development and comparison of an application aimed at enhancing neurosurgical training using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Surgical errors, often preventable and unintentional, lead to significant mortality rates and are primarily attributed to technical mistakes. The conventional medical training approach, limited by resources and potential risks to patients, necessitates a safer yet effective alternative.

The study's primary objectives encompass three key areas. Firstly, it aims to evaluate the feasibility and user performance of an application targeting neuroanatomy tasks, particularly focusing on External Ventricular Drain (EVD) procedures. This evaluation involves testing users with varying levels of neuroanatomy knowledge to assess accuracy and performance. The hypothesis anticipates higher accuracy from experts but potentially slower speeds due to technological novelty, contrasting with faster novice performance but lower accuracy.

Secondly, the research aims to discern the superior modality for surgical training between AR and VR. By directly comparing these modalities, the study hypothesizes that the transparent, see-through nature of AR may facilitate higher user accuracy compared to VR, despite VR's advantage in depth perception.

Lastly, the study endeavors to compare various modern AR and VR devices and Software Development Kits (SDKs) to determine if certain devices exhibit superior performance. This assessment aims to ascertain whether investing in specialized AR devices like glasses provides significant advantages over mobile AR applications in terms of cost and usability.

The potential impact of this research lies in its ability to guide the design of future surgical training applications based on the superior technology and performance uncovered. If validated, this application could serve as a viable alternative for neurosurgical training without the need for cadavers. Additionally, it could inform the selection of technology for future applications based on performance metrics.

Summary for Lay Audience

This thesis explores ways to improve surgical training using technology like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Surgical errors, which can be serious and sometimes fatal, often happen due to avoidable mistakes during surgery, which can be caused by insufficient training. Traditional medical training has limitations, and this research aims to create a new application for training neurosurgeons using AR and VR.

The study has three main goals. First, we want to see if such an application is feasible and evaluate user performance. The study will test both experienced and novice neurosurgical users to compare if experts are more accurate but possibly slower.

Second, the research aims to figure out if AR or VR is better for surgical training. We predict that AR, which lets users see digital objects render into real life, might help people be more accurate compared to VR, which provides a fully immersive experience.

Lastly, the study looks at different AR and VR devices to see if there is a noticeable quantifiable difference in performance. We want to find out if it's worth investing into specific AR glasses or if simpler devices like smartphones can perform the task.

If successful, this research could lead to improved ways of training surgeons without using real patients. It could also help corporations and experts decide which technology works best for different aspects of surgical training.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 30, 2025

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