The GMD National Research Centre for Information Technology in Germany is actively involved in the creation of interactive 3D graphics and animation of the human heart for a project, referred to as SCENE. A set of prototype demonstrators has been developed, in order to integrate the 3D imaging material into a simulation system, equipped with virtual reality input devices. At the recent occasion of the ERCIM Health and Information Technology (HIT) Workshop, hosted by GMD, Dr. Gernoth Grunst presented three training modules, especially designed by the SCENE researchers for ultrasonographic heart examination. The overall purpose is to optimize both medical diagnosis and learning facilities.
The SCENE project constitutes a joint initiative between GMD and the Department of Paediatric Cardiology at the Medical University in Bonn. The partners hope to solve the recurrent problematic issues in echocardiography through the use of imaging computer systems, provided with scene-based user interfaces. One such a demonstrator, introduced by Dr. Grunst, is the multimedia tutorial Echotutor. This training module helps the doctor as well as the student to understand the spatial orientation of the plane within the heart, and to interpret the ultrasound images. During the echocardiographic examination, the Echotutor offers practical hints and intuitive illustrations, while 3D visualization displays the handling of the transducer.
Fascinating visualizations of the beating heart can be performed with the 4D Explorer, a powerful simulator which allows the trainee to rotate the various interactive animations of the heart, in order to view them from every possible angle. This demonstrator includes a range of tools to select the appropriate level of transparency and the precise degree of detail. In this way, the user can analyse the entire outer and inner heart structure, as well as the valves, the dynamics, and even the blood flow. The software programmes for these advanced training modules are supplied by Apple Macintosh, with regard to MarcroMedia Director and QuickTime, and by Silicon Graphics, as far as C++, OpenInventor, and SoftImage are concerned.
As a third interactive simulation system, Dr. Grunst showed the EchoSim, developed for virtual ultrasonographic examinations. Here, the spatial orientation of both a transducer and a chest model is transformed into a computerised 3D scene. The ultrasound plane can be swept and rotated without losing perspective of the heart's "mental model" thanks to the semitransparent stereoscopic visual guidance, which is offered in the presentation of the chest and both inner and outer structures. This is an effective method to train the coordination of the student's hand and eye and to obtain a right understanding of the scenes. The Scandinavian VingMed Company supplies the ultrasound devices, in which the demonstrators are integrated, to function as fully interactive training modules. Please, consult the GMD SCENE Web site for more details.