An Uppsala University researcher is developing a technology that would enable radiologists to feel organs through a computerized image analysis carried out with the help of a pen-like three-dimensional mouse.
Erik Vidholm believes that the technology may make it easier to diagnose cancer, and plan a potential treatment.
Computerized image analysis can be used to determine the size of organs like the liver, or to construct three-dimensional models of organs when surgery or radiation is being planned. However, the quality of such images often varies.
Furthermore, humans can actually look very different from each other inside, which makes it difficult for the computer to find the information that is relevant fully automatically. Thus, it is common to use interactive methods in which doctors themselves mark the areas of interest in the image, and let the computer do the rest of the work based on this information.
Vidholm is now working on an interactive method wherein a pen-like three-dimensional mouse that enables the user to feel the virtual organs will replace the mouse and keyboard. He calls this technology 'haptics'.
He says that computer models can be adapted to the images of organs, and then be used to measure the volume of the organ, or to calculate changes in shape and migrations.
'To get a greater sense of depth in the image we use stereo graphics. When the models are to be adapted to the images, this is done partly automatically on the basis of the content of the image and partly with the input of the user wielding the haptic pen,' he says.
Vidholm has also devised a way to rapidly visualize complex image volumes with the aid of modern graphics cards.
He has revealed that this technology has been used as a component in the development of a method for more readily discovering breast cancer.