This Is the Future of Medical ImagingS

Forget x-rays, bin the ultrasound, and say goodbye to MRI as you know it. The future of medical imaging is on its way, and it will give doctors a startlingly realistic view of what's happening inside your body.

In fact, the idea of throwing out those existing imaging technologies might be a little premature, because the future will rely on all of them. The idea, you see, is to develop new ways to combine the huge quantities of data they all provide into ultra-realistic images. While that's already possible to an extent, the rapid development of computational power means that they're going to become ever more life-like. Writing in a paper about the future of medical imaging, Charl Botha from Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, explains:

"Analogous to the case of illustrative visualization, the rapid development in graphics hardware and algorithms has now enabled the interactive rendering of medical imaging datasets with physically-based lighting...

"These techniques enable not only photo-realism, but also a technical form of hyper-realism in art, where it is possible to enhance visualizations with additional realistic detail in order to better convey information."

The picture above, for instance, shows the kind of image that can be created using accurate volume rendering—and the result is a far cry from an old-fashioned x-ray. The future, then, is one where surgeons can survey every detail of a patient's body—just as it will appear on the operating table—from the comfort of their desk. [arXiv via Technology Review]

Image by Charl Botha et al