Building remote collaborative environments for 3D dynamic anatomy teaching over Internet2

Orlando 07 October 2000Jannick P. Rolland, Ph.D. in Optics, is the Director of the Optical Diagnostics and Applications Laboratory (ODA Lab), hosted at the University of Central Florida. Funded by the US National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Rolland is running a five-year project to design and test a virtual reality tool (VRDA) to teach 3D dynamic anatomy with Augmented Reality technology. To support a remote collaborative environment for real time 3D visualisation of anatomical joint motions between ODA Lab and colleague researchers at different university sites across the United States, the project workers benefit from the bandwidth capacity offered by Internet2.

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Founded in 1996, Internet2 constitutes a non-profit research and development consortium of universities and corporations in order to design and deploy advanced network applications and technologies in their private networks, with the goal of transferring them to the public Internet. The ODA Lab project, that runs until June 2002, is one of many scientific test beds to assess the quality of stereoscopic teleconferencing sessions in which MPEG2 compressed video streams of animated 3D graphical data are transmitted via Internet2.

In July 1997, Dr. Rolland started this 3D visualisation project together with Dr. Donna Wright, a specialist in radiological sciences, and with Dr. Frank Biocca, a telecommunications expert, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Since then, their ways parted geographically. This necessitated a powerful link between the School of Optics at the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) where the ODA Lab is based, the Midwestern State University of Texas in Wichita Falls where today Dr. Wright is active, and Dr. Biocca's Mind Lab at Michigan State University in Lansing. The other collaborating remote academic sites which have joined the project, include the University of Illinois, hosting Beckman Institute fellow Dr. Hong Hua as the fourth partner; the University of Florida in Gainsville, where Dr. Fregly is located; the University of Arizona; and the Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

At the ODA Lab, the Rolland team is creating animations of anatomical joint motions with optical motion tracking and computer-generated real time 3D graphics. The dynamic visual data appears as different stereoscopic images for both the left and right eye of the test person who wears a head mounted display. The result is a 3D rendered image of the anatomical joint which is being examined, such as, for instance, the knee joint. In a following phase, the stereoscopic pairs of video streams are captured and encoded by means of the MPEG2 compression method for transmission to the remote colleagues over Internet2.

The images are then received and decoded at the various distant sites of the collaborative environment to view them as 3D video in near real time. This is a much more cost and time efficient approach than partners having to travel to the University of Central Florida at each stage of the development. It also allows to provide immediate feedback on the project's progress between the members of the team. Internet2 is able to deliver sufficient capacity to send larger parcel packet streams of data so that the VRDA, the virtual reality tool for 3D dynamic anatomy, can be tested extensively. In the future VRDA thus may be used for training and teaching both medical experts and patients in virtual environments. The Dr. Rolland team even expects that VRDA will be applied to assist in guided surgery. For more details on the project, you can visit the Web site of the Optical Diagnostics and Applications Laboratory.


Leslie Versweyveld

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