Surreality Lab

The Surreality Lab, directed by Edward Andrews, MD, represents a trailblazing collaboration between the disciplines of medicine and computer science, driven by a shared commitment to revolutionize the landscape of surgical care. Founded within the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery and the University of Pittsburgh School of Computing and Information, the lab serves as the nucleus of cutting-edge research and development in three pivotal technological realms: spatial computing (SC), artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) and robotics.

The inception of the lab stems from recognizing the exponential potential of these technologies in addressing critical challenges within healthcare. While SC is still in its infancy within medical applications, the technology presents boundless opportunities to enhance surgical precision, medical education, and patient care. Simultaneously, AI/ML and robotics are reshaping the practice of medicine, optimizing treatment strategies, streamlining workflows and predicting outcomes with unprecedented accuracy.

The Surreality Lab features a multi-disciplinary team of medical professionals, computer scientists, engineers and innovators collaborating tirelessly to push the boundaries of what's achievable in surgical care. Given the widespread potential of these technologies, the lab works across a diverse range of sub-specialties including neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, otorhinolaryngology and urology, among others.

The lab's ethos centers on fostering a thriving ecosystem of innovation, where novel ideas germinate, evolve and culminate in tangible solutions that impact patient care. The Surreality Lab champions a symbiotic approach in which technical and clinical teams work together to transform visionary concepts into real-world applications with discovery in the realms of both computing and medicine. The lab supports project teams with funding, resources, mentorship and guidance through the intricate paths of ideation, investigation, analysis, publication, commercialization and beyond.

In 2023, the Surreality Lab was supported by funding from four separate grants including the Pittsburgh Foundation Copeland Grant, the Beckwith Institute Clinical Transformation Grant, the UPMC Mercy Medical Executive Committee Grant and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The lab also maintained strategic partnerships with industry leaders such as Medivis and HaptX as well as academic institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University.

The lab's research team published multiple peer-reviewed articles, with one winning best journal paper at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR), a rare feat. Additionally, we presented multiple oral podium and poster presentations at several academic conference across the disciplines of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, otorhinolaryngology, urology and computer science, winning five awards for best abstract and best presentation.

Th Surreality Lab was funded initially by a gift from Alba Tull and The Tull Family Foundation. Their generosity made what we do today possible. Alba Tull saw in a small group of five individuals the passion to change with way surgical care is delivered. With her support, the lab has been able to grow to over 25 core members with over 40 students, residents, and faculty involved in some capacity, fostering corporate partnerships with ever-growing interest from industry.