Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center and “Fakespace Systems” of Marshalltown are going to build a room at the hospital that will resemble Star Trek’s holo-deck, with technology that will allow doctors to view images in a way they never could before.
Fakespace has created giant-sized virtual reality displays for Iowa State University and the U.S. military as well as many other clients. Now Iowa Congressman Tom Latham says funding’s available for setting up a large imaging system to show scans of a patient’s body.
Latham says to combine the technology into a virtual reality tour of the heart, walk through someone’s blood vessels and things like that — this is the only place in the world where that will happen. Latham says the Iowa delegation worked together in Washington to get the 320-thousand dollars in funding for the project.
Jeffrey Brum, marketing manager for FakeSpace, says the firm builds large-scale advanced visualization, or virtual reality environments. Customers include car companies that want to develop new designs and look at “virtual prototype” before they build a real one, oil companies that use it for exploration, researchers in medical, material and molecular sciences, and museums that use the displays for “edu-tainment.”
Brum says Fakespace technology can help doctors get a clear look at test results, and show patients their scans and other things about their treatment. Old X-rays or ultrasound images were a “slice” of an image, that he says often were hard to decipher. Today’s cat-scan or other devices take multiple “slices” and can combine them into a complex 3-d image of the internal organ, the fetus or whatever they’re looking at.
The Fakespace technology makes that scan into a big picture. Brum says it provides a realistic three-dimensional impression of that object, as if it was really there. Early proposals were to make the image room-sized so a doctor could look at a body part from the inside, or show it to the patient.
Fakespace does make displays that big, where people can walk into a room and within its walls feel like they’re sitting in a car or under the earth — but Brum says for this kind of data, a single wall may be more than enough to show the images, and still give viewers “that Fantastic-Voyage type feel.” Now the money’s been appropriated Brum says the hospital and high-tech companies will consult on just what the scope of the project will be.
But Congressman Latham’s excited about the potential to attract high-powered people with the new system. Latham says there’s no place in the world that this kind of virtual-reality technology and he says it’ll draw doctors and medical professionals all over the world as well as giving a unique way to show patients about their conditions. There’s no start date established yet for building the project.