Carlson demonstrated the program, called BodyViz, to a small group of interested local citizens, including both teachers and students, as well as other community members, at the Cherokee campus of Western Iowa Tech Community College on September 28. Carlson had presented his program at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake earlier that day.
Carlson is employed at the Research Park at Iowa State University, a rapidly-growing technology community of more than 50 companies, and it was in the Cyber Innovation Institute there that BodyViz was created. BodyViz was recently awarded the prestigious Prometheus Award for "Startup Company of the Year" by the Technology Association of Iowa, and a week after Carlson appeared in Cherokee, it was announced that BodyViz had also won the $25,000 top prize in the fourth annual John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition, in which more than 60 Iowa businesses were entered.
BodyViz has extensive visualization features which enable users to quickly and effectively view and interact with their patient's data in a never-before-seen 3D manner which is changing the way medical professionals view their world. The user interface is operated by an Xbox 360 controller (yes, I said "Xbox"), which allows anyone from surgeons to medical or anatomy students to simply "travel" under the skin, past the bones, through the arteries, blood vessels and organs, and literally fly through patients' bodies. In fact, Carlson alluded to the film "Fantastic Voyage" several times during his Cherokee presentation.
The program uses actual MRIS and CT Scans, of which there are an estimated 100 million done each year in the United States alone , and the game controller lets the user create "clipping" planes on the screen and then insert virtual surgical tools, such as a trocar, into the visualized body. These tools can then be maneuvered around internal structures of the anatomy in all directions. Users can choose what tissue densities to view and can also choose from a variety of colors to enhance the data.
There are also packages which include a 3D TV and a Virtual Reality "cave," and BodyViz' largest client to date, Texas Methodist Hospital in Houston, has installed the latter system, including a 16' by 9' silver screen. The program is in 3D, and to attain the full 3-D effect, viewers must wear special 3D glasses, which of course can actually make the images you are viewing seemingly "pop out" of the screen at you - rather like an I-max theater experience.
The regular (lesser priced, of course) version also uses 3D, in the sense that the images can be made to rotate and move around as you desire.
One can just imagine what high school students - especially those who may be contemplating going into the medical field for their future training and occupation - would say if they had the opportunity to work with a program like BodyViz in their high school biology or physiology classes. It's more entertaining - and educational - than reading it out of some textbook.
The future, as we are reminded every day, is indeed here today.