This article is part of the Forum Network series on Digitalisation
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan has been promoting its recent異能 Innovation program. In Japanese, 異能 (inno) means “weird” or “unique” talent. As its name implies, the program aims to spur innovation by sponsoring disruptive technology change-makers in Japan, where society tends to squelch unconventional human talent and discourage mistakes. From 2014 to 2018, over 20,000 people applied to the program with technology advances involving groundbreaking ideas and unique Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Selected by distinguished program supervisors, successful candidates receive up to 3 million JPY per year to pursue their own original projects. The government hopes the private sector will follow suit and more actively support these idiosyncratic and innovative individuals in their ambitious ICT-related activities.
We would like to present an example of breakthrough technology by an alumnus of the program:
Hirofumi Seo was one of ten successful candidates in 2014, the program’s first year. He had worked as a licensed Medical Doctor as well as a computer graphics (CG) designer for medicine. Currently, his job title is Medical CG Producer, a new trailblazing discipline. He is both CEO of his own medical CG company, SCIEMENT, Inc.[u1] and a part-time researcher at The University of Tokyo[u2] .
Originally interested in medical animation, his present focus is on improving medical treatment by combining real-time and interactive medical data visualization using three-dimensional computer graphics (3DCG) techniques.
Seo is now developing 3DCG to assist in the treatment of congenital heart disease. In collaboration with the Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center[u3] in Japan, he has created a real-time 3DCG heart viewer prototype from extracted 3DCG heart data.
Congenital heart disease requires careful analysis because structural anomalies vary from patient to patient. To this end, some doctors have been using 3D-printed heart models derived from patient medical images such as CT scans. However, 3D printing takes hours and sometimes fails. And though this type of model allows doctors to see a cross-section of the heart with its inside structures, interactively changing the cross-section after 3D printing is impossible. For this reason, 3DCG is more efficient than printed models.
Heart structure is easier to understand by applying visualization techniques to 3DCG heart data than by using 3D-printed heart models. The following images show a 3D-printed and a 3DCG of the same heart:
Seo believes this software can be used by doctors, nurses, and even patients themselves all over the world. The software is also highly accessible because it runs on readily available commercial devices (gaming PCs and tablets) but obstacles such as prototype completion, medical approvals, etc. remain.
For now, Seo’s prototype software is only available on developer PCs and tablets. It has been tested several times at Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center pre-surgical conferences, and doctors agree that this software would be very useful. He is continuing his research and pursuing his dream to combine 3DCG and medicine for a better future.
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