Research at Iowa State University is drawing the attention of medical experts, homeland security officials, video game producers and rock bands.

AUDIO: Pat Curtis report (:60)

ISU assistant professor of mechanical engineering Song Zhang is seeking patents for his 3D imaging technology. He’s hoping the 3D images will be able to help doctors diagnose health problems or security officials identify suspects through facial recognition. Zhang’s work is supported in part by a $360,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The technology stands out from other recent 3D developments because Zhang’s images are provided in high-resolution and real-time. “The most significant difference is in the details and speed,” Zhang said. “We can capture very fine details.” Zhang and other researchers are now working to improve the technology so it doesn’t require massive amounts of data.

The band U2 asked Zhang for use of the 3D digital imagery during it’s performance of “Even Better Than the Real Thing” at a festival this month in England. Zhang was unaware of the band when a U2 representative called and requested his help. Zhang’s students and coworkers, meanwhile, were thrilled. “Everybody said, ‘U2 is huge,’” Zhang said with a laugh. “So, that’s why I did the U2 (project).” The band, however, had to cancel its appearance at the festival because of a back injury to singer Bono.

Another popular band, Radiohead, used a stylized version of the 3D imaging for one of its music videos: