The world of biomedical imaging is flat. And it needs to catch up with the 21st century and start seeing the world as a round, three-dimensional place. The answer? Give it the ol’ “Tupac at Coachella 2012” treatment and make holograms, of course!
At least that’s the idea behind a crop of new biomedical imaging projects. California-based startup EchoPixel is the latest company to jump into the fray, with its new True3D Viewer. The FDA recently approved the software platform for use in diagnostics and surgical planning.
Most biomedical imaging techniques require doctors to create 3-D visualizations out of a dataset of 2-D images gathered by a CT scanner, MRI, ultrasound, or other devices. It can be a tedious and time-consuming process. But more importantly, this imperfect system can’t always represent patient tissue and organs with enough accuracy or precision, creating holes in the pictures—more literal than figurative—that make it difficult for doctors to decide how to best diagnose and treat patients.
Holography tries to fix those problems by providing doctors with a full, 3-D image of a body part or organ that they can move around, zoom in on, and manipulate. Current systems like GE’s Vivid E9 with XDclear already take datasets from CT and MRI scans and turn them into 3-D visualizations, but they’re still relegated to flat, 2-D screens. Holography goes a step further and creates a virtual object in actual 3-D space.
It’s important to clarify that many of these new technologies aren’t real holograms, which perfectly recreate the patterns of light that reflect off an object in real life. What EchoPixel (which prefers to call their technology 3-D imaging) and others are doing is closer to stereoscopic vision, like what you see in 3-D movies or gadgets like the Nintendo 3DS. Other companies, like Zebra Imaging and RealView Imaging, create true holograms. No matter the term, though, the goal remains the same: to give doctors and patients alike a much clearer sense of the physical size and shape of the human anatomy.