Medicine Meets Virtual Reality

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Jan 25, 1994) — 

Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) Research Scientist Don Stredney was selected to present "Biomedical Applications of High Performance Computing" at the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality II conference in San Diego, California, January 27-30, 1994, sponsored by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

On Friday, January 28, Stredney will detail the current activity of OSC and The Ohio State University in developing a system to provide an intuitive interface for manipulating and experiencing virtual data sets, specifically volume reconstructions of medical data.

The OSC system is designed to provide a cost efficient, unencumbered experience with virtual information. According to Stredney, "We are not attempting to provide a full immersion into a virtual reality. We do not feel that the technology is fully developed at this time." The goal is not to convince users that they are somewhere else, or actually working on the "real patient." The goal is to provide an improved experience with a reconstructed model that facilitates the gaining of new understanding concerning patient anatomy and the intricacies of medical procedures. Says Stredney, "Our intent is to provide meaningful cues in the simulator that facilitates rapid association allowing the user to readily assimilate the information and transfer the gained knowledge to actual practice." In addition, the interface minimizes the amount of interactive modifications required by the user, thereby allowing for more user flexibility.

The OSC system interface integrates the following existing interface modalities: Visual - stereo viewing/head tracking; Vocal - speech recognition; and Haptic - instrumented gloved interface. Head tracking is accomplished using line-of-sight technology. This employs a small metallic reflector placed on the glasses that is tracked by a sensor sitting atop the monitor. As the user moves her head, the sensor tracks movement and sends the information back to the renderer, which adjusts the viewing angle of the data set.

Speech recognition is useful, as it frees the hands to be used in more meaningful ways. The user can enter specified commands to the system without having to call up menus and traverse menu trees. OSC and OSU's Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design are a alpha test site for Silicon Graphics' discrete phrase recognition software.

"Since medical procedures, such as surgery, are extremely dexterous enterprises, it is essential to employ a gloved interface in the system design." said Stredney. "We have chosen the Cybergloveª, manufactured by Virtual Technologies." The Cybergloveª allows for free movement of the hand, with no recognizable inertia to overcome. This is essential in trying to represent fine dexterous movements of the fingers and hands as encountered in surgery.

The Ohio Supercomputer Center is a state-funded shared resource of high performance computing to Ohio's researchers, both academic and industrial.