3-D firm StereoGraphics sees market depth in OEM accounts

August 31, 1994

CrystalEyes technology adds 3-D to endoscopyOne of the more intriguing demonstrations in the InfoRAD exhibitat last year's Radiological Society of North America meeting involveda virtual reality display in which aspiring cybertravelers

CrystalEyes technology adds 3-D to endoscopy

One of the more intriguing demonstrations in the InfoRAD exhibitat last year's Radiological Society of North America meeting involveda virtual reality display in which aspiring cybertravelers donnedexotic goggles to view 3-D computer images of human anatomy. Whilean interesting concept, virtual radiology seemed to be a technologyin search of an application.

Virtual radiology may amount to little more than a curiosityfor years to come. But the company that supplied the 3-D systemat the InfoRAD demonstration is working hard to make its technologya clinical reality. The firm, StereoGraphics of San Rafael, CA,has targeted minimally invasive surgery as an initial applicationfor its technology and is lining up OEM partners.

At the core of StereoGraphics is its CrystalEyes 3-D imageviewing eyewear. CrystalEyes is based on liquid crystal displaytechnology that creates the illusion of depth perception in imagesdisplayed on computer monitors.

CrystalEyes works by taking advantage of a phenomenon calledstereopsis. Due to the spatial separation of the eyes, normalhuman vision produces two slightly different views of the samescene. When the two images are fused by the brain, the perceptionof depth is created.

StereoGraphics' CrystalEyes system mimics the stereopsis effectby using two CCD video cameras to record information from slightlyseparated points of view. A 3-D video converter is used to processthe images, one for the left eye and one for the right eye.

The images are played back on a computer or video monitor,with the screen alternately displaying the left-hand images andthen the right-hand images at a rate of 120 Hz. The CrystalEyeseyewear uses a shuttering technique that masks one eye when imagesintended for the other eye are displayed. The eyewear is synchronizedwith the computer display via infrared signals.

The result gives users the illusion that the images on thecomputer monitor are extending into space. Because the imagesalternate at 120 Hz, there is no image flicker, as occurs on othersystems that operate at lower frequencies, according to the company.

StereoGraphics has developed a series of products based onCrystalEyes for a range of industries, one of which is medicalimaging. The company in particular is targeting minimally invasivesurgery and is working with endoscope manufacturers to incorporateits technology into their systems.

The CrystalEyes concept works well with stereo endoscopes,which have tiny CCD cameras to capture multiple images insidethe human body. When these images are viewed on a video monitorduring surgery using CrystalEyes eyewear, surgeons are betterable to maneuver instruments because their depth perception isenhanced, according to Dick Martin, president and CEO of StereoGraphics.Procedures can be conducted more quickly and patient morbidityis reduced because surgeons don't have to rely on "bump andretreat" methods of localizing the tips of endoscope probes.

StereoGraphics has a small sales force, and relies primarilyon OEM sales to workstation vendors and software developers whointegrate its technology into their systems. In medical imaging,the company's partners include device suppliers such as endoscopevendors.

StereoGraphics in June signed an OEM arrangement with endoscopesupplier Richard Wolf Medical Instruments of Vernon Hills, IL.Richard Wolf is incorporating CrystalEyes technology into itsproduct, which will be marketed as the Richard Wolf 3-D EndoscopyVideo System. In addition to Richard Wolf, StereoGraphics is pursuingOEM deals with Baxter Healthcare, Zeiss and Olympus.