At a recent Microsoft event, a solution for the computer-aided diagnosis (CAD) of colon cancer was demonstrated on Windows 7, using a hi-resolution multi-touch display. This demonstration makes it possible to navigate 3D, electronically cleansed images in a very natural and highly efficient way. No keyboard or mouse is necessary. CAD on W7 is part of a complete solution under development that will construct these 3D images from CT scan slices and then execute a very high performance screening for pre-cancerous growths called polyps. How cool is that? Very cool indeed!

imagePatrick Samona from Vectorform demonstrates 3D multi-touch navigation on Windows 7 at the Healthcare Solutions Showcase Event on June 15 in Boston.

Without question, the coolest part of this demonstration is that it provides an invaluable tool in the fight against the second leading cause of death from cancer. This disease is 100% preventable, but on average, about 6 people die from it every hour. Better and faster software can make a difference. Maybe it’s just me, but I think helping to save as much as 52,000 lives a year (in the U.S. alone) is a very cool development.

Windows 7 and .NET 4.0 provide some key elements of this solution. First, very clear, hi-res images are essential for accurate diagnosis—even for a highly trained doctor or radiologist. Diagnostic images must be crystal clear and very precise. Secondly, being able to manipulate and navigate this type of image with multi-touch interaction is extremely valuable. If you doubt it, try exploring a 3D image using your mouse instead. This is painfully awkward for even the most well thought-out set of controls. But with multi-touch, on the other hand, rotating a 3D volume, zooming into its depths or flying around areas of interest can all be accomplished with ease. Not even a perfect physical replica could provide the diagnostic ease-of-use, the ability to adjust lighting and shading, angle, distance, transparency or color enhancement the way that you can with a very high-quality 3D digital image and touch navigation. Until the Star Trek holodeck becomes a reality, this is about as cool as it gets.

Another very cool aspect of this solution is that it incorporates the combined expertise and contributions from a truly remarkable array of partners in close cooperation with one another. These contributions include the medical research, algorithms and expertise of the 3D Image Analysis team at Mass. General Hospital (MGH). It includes help and expertise with high performance computing from Intel (yep, this project has Intel Inside). It includes an ultra-fast, highly-scalable volume rendering engine built by Microsoft Research. And, of course, the UX expertise of the Health and Life Sciences practice at Vectorform, who put the multi-touch interface together. Tell me this is not cool!

If that’s not enough, last week this solution was demonstrated at the Summer Project Week at the National Alliance for Medical Image Computing by the MGH team to considerable interest and excitement. You know that this audience is taking the solution seriously when someone asks if you can do multi-touch with surgical gloves on. Is that cool enough for you?

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Yin Wu, Ph.D. and Computer Scientist at the 3D Image Analysis Lab at MGH presents on Volume Rendering for Virtual Colonoscopy using Windows 7 and multi-touch at the NAMIC Summer Project.

As you can probably guess, many elements of this solution may prove valuable in many other medical solutions. So, in case you are wondering if there is a really cool application with astounding 3D rendering capabilities and multi-touch interaction that could actually help to save thousands of lives each year, I can tell you there IS an application for that—and it runs on Windows 7. It’s your PC (and a whole lot more) simplified.