Sep 19, 2023

Medical device sounds inspired by… video games

A five-part series on how device sounds are engineered with patients and healthcare providers in mind

Inspiration for some Medtronic medical device sounds come from an unlikely place: video games.  The Medtronic Hugo™ robotic assisted surgery (RAS) system’s success earcon is reminiscent of a happy chime you might hear in a game when you grab a coin or earn an achievement.

“People that are operating our system, for the most part, have also played video games so they’re familiar with some of these kinds of sounds,” said Kamins. “Of course, it’s a very serious procedure, but at the same time, these very familiar sounds can be reassuring and instantly provide the user with the knowledge that they have done something correctly.”

Just like video games – positive sounds in medical devices tend to ascend and negative sounds tend to descend. In fact, all the earcons in the Hugo™ RAS system are combinations of sounds written in the same key. When you listen to all of them across the span of a surgery, they make sense with each other musically.

But there are times when silence is golden.

The sound of silence

“It’s really important that we don’t try to emphasize everything with sound, but really know what the key moments are when sound really adds the most value,” said Leslie Euston, a user-experience designer who works on the Hugo™ RAS system. “Operating rooms are notoriously noisy places with lots of equipment. We need to consider when our RAS system needs to be quiet, take a step back, and not be the loudest thing in the room.”

Other times surgeons need to maintain their view of the surgical field, so rather than text on screen and audible cue is given so that the surgeon doesn’t need to take their eyes away from the surgical task they’re performing.

The Medtronic Hugo™ RAS system is commercially available in certain geographies. Regulatory requirements of individual countries and regions will determine approval, clearance, or market availability. In the EU, the Hugo™ RAS system is CE marked. In the U.S., the Hugo™ system is an investigational device not for sale. Touch Surgery™ Enterprise is not intended to direct surgery, or aid in diagnosis or treatment of a disease or condition.


Other stories in our Sound Up! Series: