Actuality Systems bets future on need for holography

October 8, 2003

3D display globe looks like crystal ballThe next generation of 3D imaging may have as much to do with display hardware as the software used to create it. Actuality Systems is betting on just that, developing technology that turns

3D display globe looks like crystal ball

The next generation of 3D imaging may have as much to do with display hardware as the software used to create it. Actuality Systems is betting on just that, developing technology that turns digital data into holographic images. Display systems, dubbed Perspecta 3D, are already in prototype at the small Burlington, MA, firm.

"It provides a truly volume-filling image that can be seen from any angle," said Gregg Favalora, chief technology officer and vice president of products at Actuality Systems. "The highest value applications that we've found are medical imaging, military visualization, and entertainment."

The system has a crystal ball-like appearance, according to Favalora: a glass dome resting atop a circular base. Nine prototype systems are currently in use. Among these are several luminary sites, which are collaborating with Actuality Systems to further refine the clinical system. The company was established three years ago specifically to evolve this type of technology.

"We began the firm with the understanding that there's a glut of 3D and higher dimensional data in computers that are crippled because of their presentation on flat screens," said Favalora, a cofounder of the company. "If you take a high-resolution CT scan or do military sensing work, humans just can't grapple with that data. A new type of visualization modality was needed."

The engineers at Actuality Systems set out to provide it. When completed, the Perspecta system will have all the usual capabilities-zoom, rotate, and pan-for manipulating CT and other volume sets in 3D, and the company's unique brand of visualization. Perspecta 3D will allow visualization of not only still but also dynamic images. Likely applications will include cardiac imaging, allowing cardiologists to see a road map of the heart before initiating a catheterization; electrophysiology; radiation therapy planning; surgical planning; and tumor ablation.

"Perspecta is being designed to give you an intuitive view of what's going on inside the patient," Favalora said.

No goggles are needed to view the 3D image. Because of the spherical configuration, one or more medical staff can look at the image from virtually any angle. The image itself is manipulated using a computer mouse.

"It's visually compelling," Favalora said.

Actuality Systems is not alone in the development of this technology. Among the company's competitors are such electronics giants as Samsung. But Favalora appears unconcerned, noting that there's room for several companies in this emerging field.

"We are closing deals with large medical imaging organizations that we hope will act as product development and channel partners," he said. "The future looks very good."