Augmented Reality, Business and Breasts — A Few Questions For: ILLUSIO Imaging

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20161215_104847Because reality isn’t the only thing that can stand to be augmented, we were recently introduced to the use of AR technology in breast augmentation surgery consultations as California-based ILLUSIO Imaging was one of two winners in the first-ever double win at the Frontier Tech Showdown held earlier this month at Inside 3D Printing San Diego. The startup competition, which encompassed young companies leveraging 3D printing, augmented/virtual reality, and/or robotics technologies, saw eight companies vying for the prize: a $15,000 uncapped SAFE from Asimov Ventures.

illusio-logoILLUSIO Imaging, which won alongside virtual reality shopping platform Obsess, brings technology directly to doctors and patients in a new business model. ILLUSIO uses AR technology to allow patients to actually see results before any surgery is performed, as women seeking cosmetic breast procedures have long had a difficult time of deciding on exactly the right augmentation option, relying on images of a torso to approximately visualize how they might look with a new cup size. With so many factors coming into play in each surgery, from implant type to size to the position of the nipple after the surgery, a take-your-best-guess approach is no longer the best that a cosmetic surgeon can offer in consultations. ILLUSIO Imaging uses a ‘virtual mirror’ to allow patients to actually see what different options look like — on their own bodies in real time. By wearing an AR device on her chest, a potential patient can stand in front of a camera that takes her image and puts it on a screen — and thanks to augmented reality, can immediately see what she would look like after augmentation (or a breast lift, reduction, or reconstruction).

20161214_175724This patient- and tech-centric approach to cosmetic surgery made ILLUSIO “a slam dunk for us in its value added to plastic surgeons and strong business model,” Tyler Benster of Asimov Ventures, and one of the competition’s judges, told me right after the announcement of the winners. I spoke briefly as well with ILLUSIO’s CEO and Co-Founder, Ethan Winner, right after the announcement, and recently had the opportunity to follow up with him to find out more. To learn more about ILLUSIO and its use of AR before the OR, I had A Few Questions For Winner.


[Image: ILLUSIO]

Can you fill us in on the background of ILLUSIO Imaging? How did the team come together with the vision to bring augmented reality to cosmetic surgery?

“I was first introduced to augmented reality through another startup company about 2 years ago. I was brought into that project as a business organization mentor. While the endeavor didn’t go far, I walked away with a strong belief that AR is going to have a strong presence in the future and the best way to incorporate the technology into a new business was to use existing hardware and build something that didn’t have any truly daunting obstacles.  Specifically, I didn’t want to create something that needed head mounted displays or hi-tech goggles.

My cousin, Dr. Kyle Song, had performed a mommy makeover (breast augmentation, tummy tuck and lipo) on my wife, Olivia, about a year earlier following the birth of our 2nd child. I became pretty sensitive to the process that women undergo and thought that AR could be used to add confidence to their decisions. Though discussions with Dr. Song and Olivia, the idea was born and we had the perfect working focus group to create the structure for what we could create.”

How does ILLUSIO’s AR system work from a patient perspective? A surgeon’s perspective?

“ILLUSIO was truly built to be the most patient-centric imaging system in the market. It goes far beyond a before and after simulation. With our real-time modifications surgeons can manipulate the virtual breast image as the patient is looking at herself in the virtual mirror.  So, as the surgeon is verbally describing a situation, he/she is actually demonstrating  the effects visually on her person. With this visual communication, the patient is completely understanding what her surgeon is suggesting. The alternative is to interpret words and likely be left with expectations that are not in synch.

For the surgeon, it is really about educating the patient about the possible procedure as it relates to size and shape of implant. In addition, this platform enables the surgeon to visually depict the outcomes of different procedures. For example, the difference between breast implants and a breast lift with implants.”

When did the system first come into patient use?

“We first started testing the imaging system with patients in beginning of 2016. To date ILLUSIO has been used in more than 350 patient consults.”

What has patient/doctor response been to the AR Virtual Mirror system during consultations?

“The response has been overwhelming. Conversion rates have nearly doubled. This is the percentage of patients who actually book surgery after their surgeon consults. The average is roughly 30-35%, and our surgeons are converting well over 75%.  (The increase rate appears here to be higher than doubling, but that is because the surgeons that are currently using ILLUSIO were already performing higher than the average surgeon.)

In addition, satisfaction and referral rates are improved.”

20161214_175957How did your team come to enter the Frontier Tech Showdown at Inside 3D Printing San Diego?

“I’m not actually sure how this happened. I believe that Tyler [Benster connected on] LinkedIn with me and invited me to enter the competition. Coincidentally, Dr. Song and I spoke at the Virtual Reality Summit in Seoul, South Korea earlier this year. Perhaps it was this presentation that led Tyler to connect with us.”

What has winning the competition meant for your team?

“Winning the competition has had a sudden and positive effect on us. The notoriety of winning a startup competition has already opened doors for us with the investor community. In addition, we were approached by a very well known venture capital firm following the presentation and this could possibly lead to our Seed round investment.”

20161214_175926What are the next steps for ILLUSIO Imaging now that you have investment backing from Asimov Ventures?

“We will be investing to further improve our technology and scale our business for a successful program with Mentor Implants.”

Is there anything else we should know about ILLUSIO?

“It is worth noting that surgeons and medical device distributors have been contacting us from over the world. We are still only targeting the U.S. market; however the demand is so high that we will be very seriously analyzing a growth strategy that will take us overseas…likely in 2017.”

With a business model focused on patient experience that also brings another valuable tool to the surgeons using it, it’s no wonder that ILLUSIO’s platform has caught the attention of investors as well as potential customers. As we’ve seen, patients undergoing cosmetic procedures are keenly interested in learning what they might look like post-op, and accurate visualization of planned results adds great value for those on both sides of the surgeon’s knife. Technology allows for unprecedented preparation for surgical procedures, and we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on future use cases that highlight this growing convergence. Discuss in the ILLUSIO forum at

[Photos: Sarah Goehrke for]

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