Proprio’s Dr. Evie Powell on “Calm Design” in the Operating Room

Evie Powell, virtual reality engineer and lead UX designer for surgical imaging company Proprio,  spoke to Doreen Lorenzo for Fast Company as part of her Designing Women series highlighting different women in the design industry. In her interview, Powell described her journey from gaming to healthcare and how design technology can empower humans, particularly surgeons in the operating room, by embracing the concept of “calm design.”

Powell first realized she interested in design through her love for computers and arcade games. Once she attended the Game Developers Conference, playing a business-card trading game that encouraged social interaction shifted her mindset of what games had the potential to do. Powel studied socially pervasive game experiences at UNC Charlotte where she received her Ph.D. and went on to work on natural user interfaces and the Kinect technology at Xbox. Her research in games always had a focus on helping people learn, play, and experience things differently through a shift in mindset. This made healthcare a great next step for Powell and her research. Now at Proprio, she uses her expertise to anticipate how a surgeon needs to think and then design a suite of tools to empower them to think and perform optimally. 

With the Proprio team, Powell is working on a robotic surgical system that uses light field technology to create a digitization of interactive scenes that capture every possible viewpoint for surgeons as they operate. This real-time representation can also be fused with preoperative imaging and other patient data to further enhance a surgeon’s vision in the operating room. Powell explained how too much data clutters our lives and her design focus strays away distracting devices and more toward engaging with the environment around us. By pushing information into the periphery until it’s needed through, calm design is the key to unlocking the next generation of the operating room.


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