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How MediThinQ is transforming operating theatres with Extended Reality

Mr Seung-Joon Im, founder and CEO of MediThinQ
Mr Seung-joon Im, founder and CEO of MediThinQ

Extended Reality (XR) has numerous potential applications, such as providing real-time navigation information for drivers and pilots. The technology remains nascent though, as technical hurdles such as network latency hinder wider adoption. Still, outliers exist. One such example is Korean medtech startup MediThinQ, which has developed a range of fully-fledged XR wearables that’s set to transform operating theatres worldwide.


ScopEYE XR wearable, medical device by MediThinQ
MediThinQ’s ScopEYE XR wearable

MediThinQ’s innovation rethinks how information is presented to surgeons. Currently, surgeons must look up at screens every time they wish to access information such as radiological images. This back-and-forth motion means needing to constantly take their eyes off their patients, then reorient to the operating field. What’s more, surgeons can risk fatigue and repetitive stress injuries. MediThinQ’s solution is to seamlessly present the same information via head-worn displays, and completely remove the need for surgeons to look up from their patients. This doesn’t just solve an ergonomic problem, but also enables surgeons to perform with improved precision and concentration.


“The systems on the market today are all either simulation-based, to help surgeons prepare for their operations, or to analyse surgical procedures after they have been completed,” observes Mr Seung-joon Im, founder and CEO of MediThinQ. “Our solution is the first to offer real-time support to surgeons during their actual procedures. That’s the crucial difference.”


The concept sounds simple enough here, but the execution is anything but. For a start, MediThinQ’s system has a class-leading latency of just 70ms while delivering high definition video. Other headlining features include a robust network that’s impervious to radio interference, as well as widespread compatibility with existing equipment. The result? A true plug-and-play solution that has, by the way, already obtained regulatory approval in markets including the US, EU, Japan, and Korea.


Information presented to surgeons using MediThinQ's ScopEYE XR wearable
MediThinQ's ScopEYE XR wearable seamlessly presents real-time information to surgeons.

Unsurprisingly, MediThinQ’s solutions have attracted much attention; highlights include a Top 5 finish at Medtronic’s APAC Innovation Challenge and a gold medal at the Edison Awards. The startup has also secured distribution deals with two medtech industry leaders, and is in discussion with a few others.


MediThinQ is on the cusp of widespread commercialisation, and is set to revolutionise information management systems in operating theatres worldwide. An early exit via strategic acquisition by a larger player also looks likely. Mr Im, however, remains focused on the mission at hand. “What’s important is that surgeons around the world can use our products,” he declares. “Better patient outcomes and better care for the surgeons themselves are the priority.” He shares more in the following interview.


Could you share about your work in streaming/display technologies, and how your experience has led to MediThinQ?

I started my career in Korea working for LG Electronics’ display/television division, back in the early 1990s. Shortly after, I was transferred to France and promoted to product manager for all LG audiovisual products in Europe. I left that position after 5 years, but remained in France and started my own company, Neovia, which sold display products. This was quite successful, and we IPO-ed on Euronext around 4 years later. I then returned to Korea and started another company, this time to focus on high-end manufacturing for streaming and broadcasting equipment.


You can see how I’ve been developing my expertise in display and streaming technologies over those 15 years of my career. In some ways, I’ve been lucky to leverage the industry’s emerging technologies. Neovia, for example, capitalised on consumers’ transition towards flatscreen televisions as the technology became more accessible.


About 7 or 8 years ago, I met a Japanese surgeon who wanted to collaborate on a project to develop smart glasses for surgeons. He had been inspired by Google Glass, which was quite new at that time. The partnership didn’t work out, but I continued the development work on my own, and this eventually became MediThinQ.


What stands out about MediThinQ’s technology is how its platforms are easily customised, which streamlines adoption across healthcare systems worldwide, whatever an operating theatre’s workflow or needs.

Yes, and that’s because we’ve developed everything ourselves, so adapting our solutions to the needs of our customers is easy. MetaSCOPE THERMO, for instance, is a customised version of the original MetaSCOPE. But it’s not just customisation – we can develop new systems from scratch.


Anyway, the capability is just one part of it. The important thing here is to develop products according to doctors’ needs and they are, thankfully, giving us a lot of feedback on what they require. Honestly, there are too many requests, but I’m happy to have this problem. (laughs)


ScopEYE XR wearable by MediThinQ
Depending on specific surgical needs, MediThinQ’s platform can be customised accordingly

Was customisation a planned feature right at the start?

Actually, our initial idea was to use off-the-shelf hardware from brands like Epson, while developing our own software. But the surgeons we consulted rejected our product, because there were still many limitations in terms of functionality. To be blunt, what we had developed just wasn’t useful to them. Regulatory approval was also difficult – since we had no control over the hardware we procured, it was impossible to tweak components to meet regulatory requirements.


These lessons made us rethink our approach and switch to developing both our hardware and software in-house. This was the turning point, because we could fine-tune and adjust every aspect of our product. The ability to customise things came from this aspect of our products.


What has been the toughest technical challenge to overcome so far?

Wow, let’s see… I think the best answer that I can give is this: in the past 7 years, I haven’t seen any comparable product on the market. The challenge to developing our product was global, in the sense that there wasn’t a single component or feature that stood out as being particularly difficult. They were all tough! (laughs) To name just a few challenges, we had to overcome issues with latency, form factor, functionality, as well as movement tracking – and every single one of these was a dealbreaker for surgeons, so they all had to be perfectly executed.


Will you say the worst is behind you already?

I think so. Financially, we have little to no debt. In terms of our offerings, we have complete products and distributor agreements in place. Along the way, we have also worked out strong management and product development systems. So yes, I think we are in a good position now, and our shareholders and partners will benefit greatly from the work that we’ve put in to get us here.


People trying ScopEYE XR wearable by MediThinQ at VB Connect Berlin
MediThinQ at VB Connect in Berlin

Can you share more about your technology’s applications beyond the medical industry?

We have been approached by potential partners ranging from automobile manufacturers to luxury watchmaking brands, and looked into some of these opportunities. Going outside our current focus isn’t the top priority though. Right now, we are focused on sales because we want to prove our ability to generate revenue, and to have the resources for further growth.


I’m sure we will eventually expand beyond the medical industry. I think, however, that healthcare will always remain the core of what we do, because this is where we can create the most impact. Many other sectors will find our technology helpful, of course, but it’s not life-and-death. The healthcare industry is where we can make real, meaningful contributions to the world.


What is your immediate priority as CEO?

We’ve overcome various hurdles over the last few years to arrive at this point, where we are ready for large-scale commercialisation. Along the way, we have also accumulated the resources to support the next phase of growth. I want to properly allocate these resources into our various teams, to enable them to ramp things up and move ahead much more quickly than we have managed to in the last few years.


On a related note, MediThinQ has not grown into a huge company at this point, and we still have an attractive valuation. For potential investors out there, I want to stress that we are set to really take off next year, so now is a good time for any potential investor to speak to us if they wish to participate in our growth in the years ahead.


You’ve previously had a successful exit via IPO on EuroNext. Do you plan for MediThinQ to exit in a similar way?

To be honest, we can hold an IPO in Korea in 2024 if we want to. But that isn’t my top priority. On the finance side, what I’m really focused on now is the current round of fundraising to support our business operations and expansion plans. Operationally, we are working hard with our partners like Medtronic to install our systems in operating theatres. The key to our success is to have our solutions in every operating theatre worldwide, to help surgeons get the support they need. The financial rewards will come naturally along the way.


MediThinQ closing image

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