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By Keith Reid
What an exciting time to be the editor of Advanced Imaging magazine. The technologies covered within its pages represent the cutting edge of electronic imaging as it is applied in science, military, medicine, industry and security. A high profile example of imaging pushing the boundaries of the frontier of science – literally– is found in Application Notes with the news item on the New Horizons spacecraft heading to Pluto. Central to the mission are the “Ralph” and “Alice” camera packages using a visible imager, infrared spectrometer and ultraviolet spectrometer.
However, even more exciting in different ways is the application of advanced imaging technology in what might be considered more mundane and mainstream areas. The costs associated with these cutting-edge technologies have dropped in recent years, driven in no small part by the manufacturing efficiencies and process improvements brought about by consumer imaging products. Although the needs of the scientific, industrial and military community will always outstrip the consumer, there is a new middle ground developing that broadens potential applications. The article “Vision in the Halls of Medicine” on page  illustrates this phenomenon in action.
The RP-7 remote presence robot allows a doctor sitting in a remote location to make his rounds through a hospital, visiting examining and interacting with his or her patients. It uses fairly sophisticated (beyond consumer) but relatively inexpensive imaging technologies for both navigation and interaction. The doctor, sitting at a remote control station, can have access to active digital feeds from a variety of medical imaging equipment as well as archived patient records and other visual data. The human touch may be lacking, but with the ready access to data the physician can actually perform a better job in many areas than by using traditional methods.
The other application in the article, the VECTRA system, takes sophisticated electronic imaging cameras and algorithms to provide cost-effective 3D modeling for use in plastic surgery. This technology provides the “before and after” images that are used to show a patient the results of the surgery, and show future patients what they might achieve with a similar surgery. Currently, this process is facilitated most frequently by a professional 2D camera. Industrial quality cameras are required, because the image must be captured in 1.5 ms since even the smallest flinch will result in failure. Because of the continual decrease in cost of industrial technologies this 3D solution is now competitive. While it is still notably more extensive than your average 2D solution, the increased power and capabilities provided with the 3D modeling can provide added value to a plastic surgery practice.
To round out a strong editorial package for this month, Kristin Lewotsky’s management column provides an insightful look at crossing application markets; and Lee Nelson takes a look at how imaging technology is applied to motorways to help identify potential traffic disruptions so that the appropriate measures can be taken to respond to a potential accident or stalled car in the least amount of time.
Editor, Advanced Imaging