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Practical Applications of the Visible Human Explorer

Hao Le
Flashback Imaging Inc., Thornhill, Ontario, Canada
Brian Wannamaker
Sea Scan International, Caledon East, Ontario, Canada

      The Visible Human Project, coordinated and funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health has provided the Visible Man and the Visible Woman as two tremendously valuable data sets for the study and understanding of the human body. One of the daunting aspects of working with these unique data sets is simply the logistical problem of dealing with their huge size. The axial images alone of the two data sets consist of 45 Gbytes.

     During the first Visible Human Project Conference, Hao Le described and illustrated the Visible Human Explorer, an innovative approach to fast, interactive access to the full image data set of the Visible Man, including reconstructed coronal and sagittal views on an economical personal computer platform. This approach allows for easy access to the data by the general public as well as the research community. Without complicated menus, scroll bars and sliders, it allows a higher degree of interaction between the human brain, eyes, hands and the information itself. The unique feature of this method is that the size of the database of images to be viewed is not limited by available computer memory. The only constraint is the total size of the hard drives upon which the data is stored. Image display and animation (looping) take place directly from disk. This method enables the computer monitor to become a window of the hard drives with the capability to view large image files with unlimited resolution. The size of images does not affect the animation speed.

     This paper describes current practical applications and future extensions of the Visible Human Explorer. An interactive search engine that allows inter-linkage between text-based and image-based information is outlined. Also discussed is the technique to enhance the speed and quality control during the segmentation of the Visible Human Project data sets. This paper outlines the preliminary work to implement a distributed version of the Visible Human Explorer. The Visible Human Explorer based on this client/server model will allow the entire digital library of the Visible Human Project data including the reconstructed coronal and sagittal data to be stored at a central location. The software will permit interactive access to the full image data sets from remote locations that can be networked to the central site. It allows sharing of the data sets among many users while offering similar speed and interactivity as the single user, stand-alone system. In the future, this work will be followed by an effort to prototype an Internet version of the Visible Human Explorer. This will provide a diskless system, anywhere on the earth, the ability to browse and animate full-resolution images of the Visible Human Project data sets. It is expected that future data sets will have even higher resolution than the current ones. At 0.1 mm or 100 micron resolution, a single data set can be as large as 2 terabytes in size. No matter how large the data set is, this innovative and practical disk-based approach is ready for the challenge.

Keywords: Reconstructed coronal and sagittal views, animation.

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