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This work presents the development of an augmented reality magnification system, termed virtual loupe, implemented in a head-mounted display for surgical applications. The system provides a magnified view with a novel control based on tracked sight orientation. The system was evaluated by measuring the completion time of a suturing task performed by surgeons. The magnifying approach implemented proved to be useful by providing global context of the operating field. The sight-based activation was widely accepted by surgeons as a useful functionality to control viewing modalities.