April 21, 2009
Cell Phones Display Ultrasound Images

Another step closer to the medical tricorder.

Computer engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are bringing the minimalist approach to medical care and computing by coupling USB-based ultrasound probe technology with a smartphone, enabling a compact, mobile computational platform and a medical imaging device that fits in the palm of a hand.

I see this as part of a trend that amounts to a sort of democratization of medical testing. While this instrument at its current stage of development still requires an expert to wield it that won't always be the case. Small stuff costs less. It just has to become more powerful and more able to analyze images to discern what they mean without human expertise.

One way ultrasound for the masses could work is for the images to be sent via 4G and other faster wireless networks to a server. Then the server could do the computational heavy lifting to explain the medical significance of the stream of images.

William D. Richard, Ph.D., WUSTL associate professor of computer science and engineering, and David Zar, research associate in computer science and engineering, have made commercial USB ultrasound probes compatible with Microsoft Windows mobile-based smartphones, thanks to a $100,000 grant Microsoft awarded the two in 2008. In order to make commercial USB ultrasound probes work with smartphones, the researchers had to optimize every aspect of probe design and operation, from power consumption and data transfer rate to image formation algorithms. As a result, it is now possible to build smartphone-compatible USB ultrasound probes for imaging the kidney, liver, bladder and eyes, endocavity probes for prostate and uterine screenings and biopsies, and vascular probes for imaging veins and arteries for starting IVs and central lines. Both medicine and global computer use will never be the same.

In the future our houses, cars, and offices will contain embedded medical instruments that watch us during our daily tasks and let us know when we are developing medical conditions. Oh, and our bodies will contain embedded miniaturized medical testing devices that'll let our smart phones know when we have a problem. At least this will happen unless the robots take over first.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 April 21 11:25 PM  Biotech Assay Tools

Ray Elliott said at April 22, 2009 10:29 AM:

Randall Parker needs his head assayed. As a former manufacturer of diagnostic ultrasound instruments, there is no breakthrough announced here. The actual ultrasound device must be in contact with the patient for any images to be created. Once created, these images can be transmitted to any device that is capable of handling this amount of data (which the smartphone is severely limited in doing).

Technical articles should be reviewed by some intelligent being before being rushed to publication as is so well demonstrated with this work fiction.

Ray Elliott

E. Howard said at April 22, 2009 10:34 AM:

Well, Ray Elliott, where did Randall Parker say (or even imply) that the probes don't need to be in contact with the body?

Tom DeGisi said at April 22, 2009 11:00 AM:

Ray Elliot,

Here's something technical you may not know:

4G Wimax phones are already being tested in Baltimore. They have data rates which are 2 to 4 Mbps and expect to increase to 10 to 15 Mbps. http://www.wimax.com/education/faq/faq38


Rollory said at April 22, 2009 11:41 AM:

As someone who has been underimpressed with Randall Parker for quite a while, I must regretfully point out that assaying Mr. Parker's head will merely determine that it is in fact composed of a Earthlife-typical proportion of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and assorted other trace elements. As standardized a procedure as an assay is, in this case it really isn't worth the time.

Brian said at April 22, 2009 11:56 AM:

It's not just the WiMax phones, all the cellular networks are moving toward modulation schemes similar to WiMax (OFDM). the main differences are when they'll be released, how much and where their spectrum is, and who they're in bed with. Lots of change coming, and perhaps more open (and innovative) network policies to help drive the technology forward again.

Portable computers (including cell phones) are rapidly approaching a point where the network bandwidth (and arguably other resources) are 'enough'. The lag behind stationary landline systems may not matter for much longer (video on smartphones as an example). combine this with the recent trend toward lower power and less expensive computing (netbooks for example) and the next few generations of portable devices should be at least as interesting as the last few.

All that work is likely to create opportunities for wearable displays, and user interfaces. The march forward continues.

We live in interesting times.

OFDM includes WiMax, LTE, 802.11A/N and a number of other wireless network systems:

wearable displays, mostly military use right now:

newpetrol said at April 22, 2009 2:48 PM:

One cord down. Two to go.

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