A tipping point for visualization-driven knowledge

By Ronald B. Schilling, PhD, Mi3 Venture Partners and RBS Consulting, Inc.
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In the early days of medical imaging radiologists were quite satisfied using 2-dimensional (2D) visualization based on 2D data acquisition of anatomical objects. As computed tomography (CT) and other 3-dimensional (3D) volume data sets were being acquired, we were still limited to 2D visualization. There were early attempts at stereo viewing as an approach to fully benefit from the volume information. However, that technology never seemed to reach a threshold acceptance level and, therefore, didn’t captivate the marketplace. So radiologists were still left with an “incomplete” visualization schema.

Today, we have a number of display technologies that are designated as “3D.” However, in almost all cases the actual visualization technique is based on 2D views. Some of these display formats provide for a “feel” of 3D and therefore may be properly designated as “2.5D.” In addition, there are technologies, such as holography, that do provide for a form of 3D views. However, without the ability to interact with the object being viewed, the visualization approach is still not complete.

In applying all of the technologies described above, the goal is to utilize advanced visualization techniques to optimize the knowledge gained by the user. In the author’s opinion, knowledge is a combination of cognition and intuition.

By combining stereo with virtual holography, creating an interactive stereo display, it is possible for doctors to visually work with parts of the body in open 3D space as if they were real physical objects. With the addition of various approaches to directly interacting with the object, it is believed that both cognitive and intuitive skills will be improved due to the use of these sensory cues. This will result in a meaningful increase in user knowledge.

This approach has the potential to provide a paradigm shift in the areas of diagnostics, surgical planning and treatment by allowing doctors to focus all of their attention on solving clinical problems without the need to struggle through the interpretation of 3D anatomy using 2D views. The struggle, known as spatial cognition, involves viewing 2D images and constructing a 3D recreation in your mind – a cognitively intensive process. The risk is that clinically significant information can be lost in the process.

It is predicted that, with the advent of many “3D” technologies becoming available for consumer purposes, the medical field will be adopting new approaches to increase knowledge, while requiring a shorter period of time to reach a high level of expertise.

Let’s remember that the key to success in all modalities has been based on the clinically derived protocols. With the advent of stereo-interactive displays, a new phase of protocol development awaits us. 

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A tipping point for visualization-driven knowledge.  Appl Radiol. 

September 28, 2012
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