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Healing the world: A surgeon's quest

Creating a universal translator with IBM collaboration, captioning and translation tools

Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg is a man with a mission. He wants to teach surgeons around the world the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) so that they can perform minimally invasive surgery and he wants to do it using sophisticated collaborative tools, like his colleague Dr. Allan Okrainec and several other surgeons from the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons who developed FLS.

Unfortunately, Dr.’s Schwaitzberg and Okrainec are teaching surgeons throughout the world who don’t necessarily speak the same language. Thus began Dr. Schwaitzberg’s quest to find a new technology—one that integrates collaborative video conferencing with a real-time universal translator—to help him make the world of surgery instruction and certification a smaller place.

Dr. Schwaitzberg teamed up with IBM Research (Human Ability and Accessibility Center) and IBM partners: Nuance, Lionbridge, and Polycom, to prototype an integrated collaborative platform that translates the instructor’s voice into one of 11 languages selected by the student. This is the first step in Dr. Schwaitzberg’s vision for creating the universal translator. He says,

"The foundation of the system is built on IBM Sametime Meetings collaboration platform. We then integrated multi-party video conferencing from Polycom, speech-to-text capability using Dragon Medical, captioning technology from IBM Research Human Ability and Accessibility Center, and finally, the "secret sauce", translation technology from Lionbridge. Expect much more to come as we think about trying to make the world a smaller place."

With this current technology prototype and future refinements, Dr. Schwaitzberg is making it possible to train the next generation of surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery around the globe.