In a technical note article published Sept. 22, a team of researchers led by Dr. Steven Rowe, PhD, and lead author Dr. Elliot Fishman of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, shared their initial experience with using AR/VR to view and manipulate photorealistic 3D images.
“The intersection of these technologies suggests many potential advances, including the ability for interpretive radiologists to view photorealistic images of patient pathology in real time with surgeons and other referring providers, as long as VR/AR headsets are deployed and readily available,” wrote Rowe and co-authors from Johns Hopkins and Siemens Healthineers.
The researchers imported cinematic rendering images produced on a SyngoVia VB40 (Siemens) workstation to a workstation linked to a Microsoft HoloLens 2 Development Edition headset. A prototype of Cinematic Reality software (Siemens) was then coupled with the HoloLens.
With hand movements, users can zoom in and out of the image, as well as rotate it and apply cutaways, the researchers said. Additionally, they can also scan the cinematic rendering hologram to view obscured anatomy or pathology.
Members of multidisciplinary teams could use the AR/VR environment to discuss anatomy, normal variants, and complex pathology. For example, an emergency radiologist could — virtually or in person — meet with a vascular surgeon to discuss CT angiography results, the researchers say. Using the HoloLens headsets, the two vendors could discuss any salient findings.
“Particularly in the context of the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative that radiologists find ways to communicate subtle findings and function as viable consultants to our clinical colleagues,” the authors wrote. “In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is harder than ever for radiologists to be available to their colleagues, due to a combination of working from home and maintaining social distancing at work. The emerging technological intersection of [cinematic rendering] and AR/VR is adapted to the new reality of the COVID era, with the possibility of having multiple users, all remote from each other, connected to the AR/VR environment as [cinematic rendering] images are discussed.”
The combination of cinematic rendering and AR/VR could also offer other potential benefits.
“The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) as a driver of the future of radiology suggests that new methods of visualizing volumetric data could be important as data inputs for radiology workstations. AIs driven by graphics processing units,” they wrote. “Adding AR/VR to CR visualizations can allow non-radiologists to have input into the images that are sent to the Picture Archiving and Communication System and facilitate the incorporation of clinical data into the ensemble AI algorithms.”
Other hardware and software could also be used to replicate the group’s approach. According to the researchers, photorealistic images could be generated using other rendering software modified with a cinematic rendering lighting model. Other AR/VR technologies available on the market, including the Oculus headset (Oculus Studios) or EchoPixel’s True 3D tablet and stylus.
“The potential availability of competitive platforms should help make combining CR with AR/VR more widely accessible,” they wrote.
The researchers noted that their study is descriptive and does not provide specific data that would demonstrate the added value of cinematic rendering and AR/VR.
“Ultimately, well-designed prospective studies will be needed to assess the utility of the combination of CR and AR/VR for medical diagnostics,” the authors wrote.
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