3D medical viz system with Xbox controller

Iowa State University researchers developed a system to converts common 2D MRI and CAT medical scans into 3D visualizations, enabling physicians to fly through the body using an Xbox controller. Apparently, their software is much simpler to use, and the visualizations easier to explore, than existing 3D medical imaging technologies. The engineers have now spun out their innovation in to a start-up, called BodyViz. Their hope is that the software can be used to train medical students and enable physicians to try procedures before doing them on live patients. The PC software sells for $4,995, plus $69 for the wireless Xbox controller. From Iowa State:
Two-dimensional imaging technologies have been used in medicine for a long time, said  (BodyViz co-founder) Eliot Winer, an Iowa State associate professor of mechanical engineering and an associate director of Iowa State’s  Virtual Reality Applications Center. But those flat images aren’t easily read and understood by anybody but specialists.

“If I’m a surgeon or an oncologist or a primary care physician, I deal with patients in 3-D,” Winer said.

(The creators) like to quote a doctor who told a reporter that when preparing for complex procedures, “2-D is guessing and 3-D is knowing.”

"Iowa State engineers develop 3-D software to give doctors, students a view inside the body"



  1. This is cool, but I don’t think it’s all that innovative. 3D visualization for medical purposes has been around for awhile – check out Analyze by the Mayo Clinic (http://www.analyzedirect.com/). I guess it’s neat that you can control it with an XBox controller, but I’m not sure how much better that is than a regular keyboard/mouse combo.

    Disclaimer: I have no association with the Mayo Clinic or the Analyze software, I am just familiar with it from using it in my area of research.

  2. Hyped. Bullshit.

    Any professional who uses 3d data uses a trackball. It’s what engineers and medical data analysts use…. for a reason. It’s better on the bones (no RSI) and it tracks user input better. Using an xbox controller (with it’s HORRIBLE layout….you have to hold it sideways in some usecases!!!) is just a sales cop-out.

    To be really honest, there are many better ways of traversing 3d space (even the crappy logitech offshoot 3dconnexxion and it’s spaceball derivatives), but an xbox controller? No. Really. No.

    Ask anyone who uses 3d data. Go to Polycount and ask the pro’s who make 3d figures for games if ANYONE would use an x360 controller in 3dsmax, XSI or maya.

    Hell, even a wacom tablet is better than a 360 controller.

    Damn, I don’t know why, but it really pisses me off when a company tries to ride the hype and posits an inferior method to do something, just ’cause it’s something a lot of people use for something totally unrealted.

    1. I use 3D data in research, and write software for volume visualization (MRI data mostly). I use a three button mouse, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with using any input device for navigation. I can’t recall a trackball used in research, although there’s nothing wrong with that either.

  3. I almost blew up all the kidney stones on level 5… Then this stupid aneurism showed up and killed my perfect score. Game over.

  4. This really isn’t as innovative. This kind of visualization has been around for some time and especially got more interesting through modern gpu architectures which can been used to boost up the raycasting process.
    Also there are free/open source solutions for this. Check out Voreen or Mevis Lab.
    To implement Xboxcontroller input should really not be that hard.

  5. Well, based on the above comments I have a question. If this is a solved problem, then why isn’t it used in medicine? I have talked to several doctors and they say the only viz they have are the grayscale images their radiologists give them.

    Maybe it is solved in the “research” world, but those of us that live in the real world don’t have access.

    Great work BodyViz!

    1. The post from axiom lists 2 completely free alternatives. How can you say they don’t have access. Go ahead and download it for free.
      And how can you cheer to Bodyviz? 5000 Dollars, seriously? For technique that is out there for free… Oh yeah, Xboxcontroller support… Amazing. This is what doctors really need.

  6. Check the price. What’s innovative about this technology is they have it at a price point where every single hospital and clinic in the country can afford it, as opposed to every tech mentioned in previous comments, and pretty much any other tech in the medical industry.

    Cost of entry is not a factor.

  7. There are many companies offering fancy 3D visualization for medical imaging. Reality is that today’s state-of-the-art is much more than a fancy rendering, check out http://www.3dnetSuite.com for example: advanced medical imaging for the whole enterprise.

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