By combining Microsoft Kinect’s motion-capture camera with medical imaging tests, French researchers have created a “digital mirror” that appears to peel back the skin of users and expose their organs.
Scientists from the University of Paris-South collected high-resolution images from the Pet scans, X-Rays and MRI scans of volunteers. Using the Kinect camera to track the movement of two dozen joints, they were able to translate the medical images into life-like animations and then project them onto the mirror-like screen. When users stepped in front of the mirror, they were treated to what looked like the insides of their bodies moving in real time.
Not surprisingly, users had a mixed reaction to the inside out reflections. In one experiment, the researchers left 30 people alone with the mirror for several minutes. Women seemed especially creeped out by the experience, with some gasping and covering their chests to block the view. About a third of people of both sexes were so uncomfortable they were reluctant to let anyone else have a look.
“When you’re a child and you discover your own image in front of the mirror, you don’t know it’s you,” lead researcher Xavier Maître told New Scientist Magazine. “The initial reaction to the digital mirror is often similar. It’s as if you’re inside your body. You’re discovering something that belongs to you.”
Maître said the device was built to “explore the philosophical questions about how we relate to our bodies” but believes it could eventually prove useful for doctors to help their patients emotionally prepare for surgery. As he told New Scientist, “Normally, the physician might show you an image of a CT or MRI of your body, but it is not in relation to your actual body. It might as well be someone else’s CT. If you’re able to actually relate it to some parts of your body, it may give you a little more information about where the problem is.”
This mirror isn’t the only gadget being used to reflect an alternate reality in the name of medicine. The “Mirracle” mirror developed by the Technical University in Munich, Germany projects slices of medical graphics directly onto a person’s body for the purpose of helping both surgeons and patients visualize what will take place during an operation. Another project is underway at George Washington University which will employ similar technology to show preliminary images of the body’s insides so that surgeons can keep their hands sterile as they map out a surgical plan.
Up next, the French research group will program in a beating heart and expanding lungs to make their images even more realistic. They will display the mirror and present their findings at the Computer-Human Interaction conference in Toronto, Canada later this month.