Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?

Rendering Ultrasonic Imagery: The Sonic Flashlight 97

Effugas writes: "Fark pointed me at this brilliantly elegant new invention, the Sonic Flashlight. From the curious workshop of George Stetten, an ultrasonic scan of the inside of a patient's body is visually overlaid perceptually within the body being scanned, with no requirement for special glasses, viewing angles, or even particularly exotic hardware. How? Form a triangle with an ultrasound platform and its output display--then bisect the triangle with a half transparent(see the body below), half reflective(see the display above) pane of glass. Since the angles match, the two images merge to provide a perfectly placed synthesis of reality and its augmentation, irrespective of viewer position. Watch the video here for a demonstration; note the hand held variant at the bottom of the page as well. Slick!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Rendering Ultrasonic Imagery: The Sonic Flashlight

Comments Filter:
  • Genius (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @08:07AM (#2675122) Homepage
    One of the definition of genius is the ability to take existing ideas and put them together in a new way that hadn't been previously thought of. In one sense, that exactly what this does. There isn't any major leap here; it's not a tricorder or real x-ray specs. But it is a fundamentally new way of working, and that's the genius.
    • good stuff, but I am holding my breath for when the sonic screwdriver becomes available at thinkgeek. Ahh yes, and the return of those ultralong scarves as well...
  • X-Ray replacement? (Score:2, Informative)

    by zoward ( 188110 )
    There are unsafe levels of x-ray radation that one is not supposed to be exposed to over the course of one's life. Many chronically ill people bump into that limit. Depending on the clinical effectiveness of this, the sonic flashlight could become the x-ray machine's safer, cheaper brother, although my guess is that, like MRI or CT scans, it will augment rather than replace many of the imaging methods currently in use.
    • One of the major factors that will determine widespread acceptance is the price of the units, and from the looks of it, these units seem like they could become very cheap to produce.
    • the sonic flashlight could become the x-ray machine's safer, cheaper brother,
      I think 'the safer, cheaper sister' would be a more easily understood analogy.
    • Recently I got a pacemaker, and therefore I can not be scanned with MRI anymore. CT scans are not a good alternative for MRI because it can not show soft tissue very well, and the patient is exposed to potentially dangerous radiation, so you can not use it as often as you would like. I hope and expect that advances in ultrasonic imaging will make it a valuable alternative to MRI in the near future. The sonic flashlight is certainly a step in the right direction!
  • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @08:17AM (#2675126) Journal
    This might catch on, for a couple of reasons
    -placing IV lines in overly-nutrified people (ie. obese).
    -hitting abscesses to drain and/or culture them in our lovely skin-popping junky population.

    But other than that, most surgeons (me) and radiologist have developed accurate visual-spatial skills so that we can translate what we see in the remote monitor to what we are doing with our hands. I'm pretty sure that the veins present on the ultrasound image of that guys hand would easily be visable with my naked eyes or palpable (ie using my fingers to feel where it is) easily.
    Ultrasound currently only has several uses in most hospital settings - looking at fetuses, looking for blood clots, gall bladders and a couple of other things. The information gained is usually poor at best - limited by the poor-quality information that is inherant in an ultrasound image. For things that really matter a CT or MRI is used.
    • Taking political correctness to new levels!

      "overly-nutrified people" is a new one one me!

      Thanks for the laugh! :)
    • As a prosthetist/orthotist, I think this would be useful for realtime viewing and testing of soft tissue injuries. From the description given it would allow manipulation and viewing to occur at the same time, and hence allow for possible viewing of rupture of joint capsules, or other pathologies where a MRI may be too cost prohibitive.

      But time will tell how clinically useful this device is. If more people could develop realtime 3D medical imaging, it might allow further quantification of clinical skills.

      OK, time for sleep now.....
    • A cool add-ons would be a light-intensified flouroscopy. Someone made one using standard mil-spec night vision device, a flourescent screen and a tritium wristwatch for a radiation source (no clinicaly significant radiation doseage). This would allow for multispectral imaging in false color, Even diferant energies for optimal visualisation of soft and hard tissues. I bet you could used that.
  • by sessamoid ( 165542 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @08:32AM (#2675137)
    This doesn't change the fundamental usefulness of the ultrasound in medical uses. It certainly won't replace xrays or CAT scans, as the imaging modalities have fairly different applications already which are limited by the differences in x-ray and ultrasound physics.

    In most medical uses, it's important to be able to change the angle at which the ultrasound image is taken. Like CAT scans, ultrasound takes images of anatomy in slices. It's generally required that certain views to visualize a certain grouping of structures is desired, and one needs to be able to get those pictures quickly at various angles. For that, the handheld transducer as used is still going to be more useful than this invention. For something like this invention, you'd have to turn the whole patient or extremity to obtain a different angle due to size of the glass panel and transducer. Not practical as it's currently implemented for most medical applications.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2001 @11:57AM (#2675553)
      This message is for those who doubt the usefulness of this invention. I was lucky enought to see Doctor Stetten's PhD defense at UNC (he already had an MD). His research involves diagnosing heart problems quickly with ultrasound.

      >In most medical uses, it's important to be able >to change the angle at which the ultrasound image >is taken. Like CAT scans, ultrasound takes images >of anatomy in slices.
      This used to be true, but now we have 3dimensional ultrasound, which you can't really see from the video. The advantage is immediate diagnosis. Where CT scans cost hundreds of dollars and take hours to plan and schedule, ultrasound is cheap and fast.

      This goes much further, however. I work in cancer radiation treatment. A huge problem we have is matching the CT scan to the patient when the treatment is being done. This device has the potential to let technicians place the patient perfectly on the treatment table. This could really affect the survival rate of patients.

      For Dr. Stetten, his invention means that he can tell if a patient has a blocked artery without surgery. Slashdotters, remember that just because _you_ can't think of the application, doesn't mean there isn't one. Doctors don't have time to waste inventing devices without use. They create things that are directly applicable to what they do.
    • From the Slashdot blurb at the top of this page:

      note the hand held variant at the bottom of the page as well.

      From the links:

      Stetten has also built a portable sonic flashlight that could make it
      easier and more convenient for routine use in a doctor's office.


      The portable version seen below can be held in one hand while
      manipulating a needle with the other.

      Do I have to draw you a picture []?

      (offtopic: why are you spam-proofing your sneakemail address? It has its own mighty spam-trap abilities.)
    • I don't see why the same technique can't be used with other imaging methods instead of ultrasound. For instance, CAT scans, X-rays, or MRI images might be more useful in various situations.
  • Check out H. Steinhaus's classical book, "Mathematical Snapshots, New Edition, Enlarged and Revised," 1960, Oxford University Press, New York, Library of Congress catalog #60-5104. You'll see an extremely similar idea shown on p. 172-176, figures 174-176. "The idea described here has been used to localize foreign bodies in the human body. For this purpose X rays are applied... the surgeon seees a picture similar to the photograph (174); looking through the [partially reflective] glass he sees the patient's skin, but he also sees the bulb exactly at the place occupied [by the object he's trying to surgically remove.]"

    The only real difference is the subsitution of a real-time ultrasonic display for an X-ray.

    I dunno how patent law works these days, but it would seem as if there's a pretty significant piece of prior art. That's a 1960 revised edition of a book originally published in 1950; I don't know whether or not this description is in the 1950 edition.

    The technique, of course, has been used by magicians for stage effects for over a century, and is one of the main techniques used to produce the illusions in the the Disney "Haunted Mansion" (which many people believe incorrectly to be holograms).
    • > I dunno how patent law works these days

      I think that they work like this:

      if (last_patent.stupidity < proposed_patent.stupidity) {
    • >The only real difference is the subsitution of a >real-time ultrasonic display for an X-ray.

      Well, that's a significant improvement, wouldn't you say? There are somthing like 20+ different patents on various forms of clothespin.

      I agree that there's a huge amount of abuse in the modern patent system, but this guy really has, from what I can tell, produced a new and useful improvement. You make a convincing argument against a general patent, but he should definitly be able to get a patent for this specific device.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 08, 2001 @09:18AM (#2675191)
    Can a larger version of this be used to detect hidden weapons on people that are fully clothed? I guess we would have the person stand with their back to the wall then lower one of these "screens" to sort of sandwich the person between the screen and wall and we would then see if they are hiding a weapon? Why would it not work?
  • ...but where's my sonic screwdriver?
  • that the sticky blue gel used in ultrasound will be available for other purposes?
  • being careful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @09:38AM (#2675226) Journal
    There were reports that a suffciently young unborn child can hear the ultrasound, as seen by reactions in the womb.

    Since these things are loud, it would sort of be the the equivalent of suddenly being in side a noisy train station. There has been concern expressed about possible damage

    So while ultrasound is very cool, there are some times when it needs to be used with care.

    • of course, I found the link for this after hitting the submit button. 91639 []

    • We experienced this first hand with our son. The first practice we went to was extremely eager to do ultrasounds, so we consented for the first two. A third was done out of possible medical necessity. Each time, he would become highly agitated after about 15-20 seconds of scanning. My wife said it would take half an hour after they stopped scanning for him to calm down.

      We'll never do an ultrasound during pregnancy again unless there are very serious indications that it's necessary.
    • > Since these things are loud, it would sort of be
      > the the equivalent of suddenly being in side a
      > noisy train station. There has been concern
      > expressed about possible damage

      What a load of crap. Now I know not to bother with "newscientist".

      Ultrasound operates at frequencies in the megahertz and is nowhere near audible. Not even a bat can hear these frequencies. I used to work at an ultrasound company and I scanned my wife a dozen or more times when she was pregnant. More often than not, our daughter would be asleep in a position that would make it difficult to see her face. We certainly never had a problem with her getting "agitated".

      Even if the baby does become agitated, it is more likely caused by the transducer being pushed into the mother's belly.
  • OLD! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ManualCrank Angst ( 541890 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @10:13AM (#2675278) Homepage
    Sonic images are old hat. I remember Sega invented a device in the early 90's that could render a full-color sonic hedgehog.
  • This thing will never sell. Take that picture of the hand. I couldn't make out altitude, bearing, OR air speed.

  • It is a nice hack, but the technology really has very little applicibiltiy to real medical ultrasound uses. Properly trained professionals have absolutely no trouble identifying the location and structures seen on the ultrasonic monitor. Anyone who is NOT a trained professional shouldn't be playing with ultrasonic equipment, regardless.

    While it might be nice for 'dad' to see the fetus properly located in the womb, there will be absolutely zero impact on the quality of patient care due to this device. In fact, because of the inherent inferiority of the ultrasonic image projected in this manner, I would bet that quality of care would diminish.

    Cool hack, but any claims that this is something that hospitals will widely adopt is utter nonsense.
    • Untrue. (Disclaimer: I sit one desk over from one of the grad students who works on this, and I think Stetten is a cool guy.) There are a couple key areas where this is useful:

      1. While a well-trained US professional can do as you say, there are a lot of hospitals that can't afford/find a well-trained professional (think rural and innner-city medical centers). If this boosts the diagnostic ability of other caregivers, it will help patients. (Now, getting it made cheap enough for those hospitals to buy... could be trickier.)

      2. It's an excellent teaching tool. Well-trained professionals got that way after struggling through many years of not being able to see jack shit. Speaking as someone who's a med student on the side, I would love to be able to use the SF to compare to a normal static US scan.

      3. This isn't really aimed at diagnostic US anyway. One of the big goals of the MRCAS and MERIT centers at CMU is "augmented reality" for surgery. The idea is that as the surgeon prepares to go digging around in an area whose contents are not precisely localized, he/she can take a look with the SF and know exactly where to cut.

      4. Even for diagnostic uses, like US-guided biopsy, this brings improvement. Instead of having to look away from the patient to some monitor, you keep your eyes on your hands and on the patient at all times. Speaking as someone who's had to handle a laparoscope while simultaneously staring at a TV screen, it would be a lot nicer if I had that little bit of extra visual feedback about precisely what my hands and the tissue under them were doing.
  • I love that someone actually took the time to make this, but looking at the demo I can't help but ask a couple of "But what if ... ?" questions.

    For one, I don't see anyone performing a medical procedure, even as simple as inserting a needle, while trying to hold this thing at proper angle a the same time. Also, can you imagine trying the contorting needed should a doctor want to take look at some part of the body from the side. That said, here is a suggestion.

    Instead of using the "HUD" approach, why not project the image on the body from an independent source while being able to leave the probe on a secured arm. First, data acquisition should not be very hard. Attach the ultrasound probe to an arm that can measure the rotation of joints (such as these []), or use four receivers and two transmitters attached to the probe (just like GPS) to determine the position and orientation of the probe. Quick linear transform on the acquired image and now you know what to project. This part I am not so clear about.

    You could either use overhead projectors pointed down, or something smaller. Another idea I have to reduce cost here is something as simple at using a small laser pointer with a mirror that has two axis of rotation. Since the image is black and white anyway, all you need to do is determine the timing for each pixel and turn the pointer on and off to draw a picture. Depending on how fast you can turn the laser pointer and off you should be able to achieve much greater resolution (talking out of my ass, but I hope) Again, mount it on an arm or use triangulation to determine where you projecting.

    I hope this post provokes more suggestions on how to improve on the concept, but this really does look like a technology demonstrator rather than something practical. Imagine what you could do if you could take X-rays, MRIs, PET scans, and real-time ultrasound to merge them all together and project all that on information on the patient. BTW, considering from watching TLC it looks like most doctors operate with a whole bunch of crap attached to their head anyway, 3D goggles to really "see" inside the body wouldn't be too much of a hassle for them.

  • ... or should I say "orientational awareness irrespective of observer augmentation"... sheesh. They say that your syllable-per-word average in sentences goes up as your vocabulary improves, but after a certain point it just makes your writing a pain to read. Then you spend four years in college with an _Elements_of_Style_ text learning how to write elegantly. Meanwhile, your grades suck. Not that I'm bitter...

    Anyway, I for one would find this indispensible... As a recent father-to-be I just got to see the first ultrasounds of our fetus last week ("Peanut", we've been calling it). But I couldn't make heads or tails of the image. The nurse was telling us "well, it's sort of upside-down", but despite all my preparation with those educational TV birthstravaganzas, it didn't make any sense at all. I'd love to be able to see the ultrasound image overlaid over my wife's stomach.

    But maybe if they just let me play with the ultrasound probe a bit, I'd figure it out... next time... :/
  • I am glad that most scientific research doesn't hit the "slashdot meter" before funding decisions are made. I doubt that computers, penicillin, semiconductors, or much else would pass the "knee-jerk" judgments on this forum.

    Anyway, it occurred to me that, when added to other sensors now being deployed at airports (portal monitoring), that this might have real value in security applications.

    Flame away dudes!!

  • Ultrasonic testing uses sound waves to detect imperfections in material and to measure material properties.

    Ultrasounds can be used for testing material imperfections in other things besides people (though of course things like x-rays are better and are often used on non-living objects). All the same, I'd be interested in seeing how cheap this is. If it's significantly less expensive than previous ultrasounds (and it looks like it might be) then drop in cost can make a lot of things 'possible' that weren't before. DNA fingerprinting was possible before PCR in 1992, but PCR made it cheap enough for common use.

    Ultrasound does have engineering applications

    "The comparison between the original and final thickness converted to strain readings and plotted on thickness strain diagrams. The thickness is measured by pointed micrometers, or by ultrasound gage. From the final thickness and original thickness ratio, TF / TO, an actual strain level can be developed based on constant volume and plotted on a thickness strain diagram." (Hogarth, D.J., Gregoire, C.A., Caswell, S. L., 1991, p. 88). /html/t.html []

    Abstract: Circulation calculations, which have traditionally been performed by taking the line integral of the velocity around a closed path, require detailed knowledge of the flow field. An ultrasound method for circulation measurements has been under development at WPI for several years and it has the advantage of allowing for the direct measurement of circulation without the need for the velocity field data. This time-of-flight method employs counter-propagating ultrasonic pulses. The time difference between the counter-propagating pulses around the closed path is linearly proportional to the circulation enclosed by the ultrasound path. The ultrasound method of circulation measurement does not require any calibration constants and can be non-invasive. The reliability of the method was assessed by comparing the directly measured circulation values with those deduced from the lift of a symmetric airfoil. Examples will also be presented where the ultrasound technique has been applied to the vortical flow over a delta wing and a tip vortex. Owing to its simplicity and ease of operation, the technique may be utilized in the future as a sensor in closed-loop active flow control systems. l []
  • Too many links (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lazaru5 ( 28995 ) on Saturday December 08, 2001 @01:08PM (#2675752)
    Submitters: Please Please Please stop linking every word and phrase. It took me 5 tries before I found the actual page that text in the submission (above and below, etc) came from.
  • Is it just me or does real player suck ass!!!

    Anybody have a copy of the video in some other format? I do not feel like infecting my machine with the Real Player Virus.

    Can anyone see this video on Linux? Off topic I know, sorry.
  • How about you stop putting all kinds of stupid links in the writeup, so we can find the actual story without having to go to and a geometry page first?

    Equally annoying is when you say, "An article [] on CNN [] says ...

    We know how to get to without a link to the main page. Just link to actual story, that's what we're interested in. That way we can immediately see where we're supposed to click.
    • The first link pointed directly at the news article and the second directly at the author's home. Excuse me for doing a bit of research to foster discussion on the topic.

    • Unfortunately it seems that /. editors have no scene of graphic design/typography (or basic grammar skills really) whatsoever.
      The most obvious thing would be to make the main link to the article bold.

      While I'm ranting here:

      1) Long blocks of italics are hard to read, especially on a computer screen. Using a different font or colour would be much more readable, and easier to tell from the editors comments.

      2) Line breaks and paragraphs are also good to separate text. I have never seen a blank line of the frontpage of /. It's silly, you already have to scroll since there's a lot of info. A few blank spaces for readabilities sake isn't going to hurt.

      I've mentioned quite a few times--on articles about CSS, web standards and the like--that /. needs a re-design. This is what I mean. Not lots of nice flashy graphics, basic design things like proper spacing between elements and distinguishing different information.

      • Here's another idea that I just remembered. Maybe /. editors should consider the use of TITLE tags. It's kinda like ALT tages for images, except you can use them in <A HREF> tags.

        Simply use like this:

        ...The other day I was browsing the net, and I came across this horrible site called <A HREF="" TITLE="Warning! This site is really gross. You have been warned"></A> just as my boss walked in. What happened next was the most...
        I'd show you an example. But /. filters out this very usefuly tag.
  • Maybe we can use this to find the Phantoms within... We just need to build those cool little lasers that can wipe out Phantom cells...

    On a side note, my sister has a son who is 14 months old, and I remember when she and her husband went to the doctor for regular checkups during her pregnancy, he was very tentative on doing ultrasounds. They performed one, and my sister said that DJ (my nephew) kicked around for a good hour. So my point is anyone who compares this (ultrasounds) to noisy train stations or a loud car stereo is really off his/her rocker. It's all about the frequencies. There's a reason they call it "ultrasound," and not "loud sound." My two cents on the matter. This thing is still pretty cool.
  • Some [] posts [] have [] entirely [] too [] many [] links [] in [] them []...
  • I was expecting some sort of hi-res flat panel display with the sensors on the back to make a window ala _Red Planet_ and their map screens. Why this hasn't been done yet is beyond me.
  • I described this to my horse vet today, and she likes the idea. This is something you could conveniently use to examine a horse's legs in the field. Her existing ultrasound machine is suitcase-sized and takes some time to set up, and has a cabled-together scanning head, monitor, control unit, and printer. Remember, you have to set up and use this around animals that weigh more than half a ton and may be upset when a vet sees them.

    One good point is that a small, high-resolution image is more useful than a big, low resolution one here. Much of a big image is used to locate the context of what's being examined. With something that images where you're looking, you need less context.

  • I want one of these for my wearable [].

  • a recent report that ultrasound testing of the sex of unborn children seems to play a part in changing the sex of the unborn child, this tool should be handled with care. Sort of reminds me of the Curie `hey look - i can see my bones` fun and games with radioactivity...

The best defense against logic is ignorance.