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Live Picture technology speeds distribution of high-res images


Live Picture technology speeds distribution of high-res imagesImage Server may find uses in medical imagingWhile the World Wide Web shows promise as a low-cost means of bringing the benefits of PACS to clinicians, it suffers from an

Live Picture technology speeds distribution of high-res images

Image Server may find uses in medical imaging

While the World Wide Web shows promise as a low-cost means of bringing the benefits of PACS to clinicians, it suffers from an important drawback: The resolution and size requirements for medical images often strain the low-bandwidth networks and standard PC monitors used by physicians outside radiology departments.

Officials at Silicon Valley firm Live Picture believe they have a solution to the problem. The Campbell, CA-based company has introduced Image Server, a Sun Solaris- or Windows NT-based server that allows high-resolution data such as medical images to be distributed much more quickly over networks, and particularly over the Internet or intranets. Film and PACS vendor Eastman Kodak is one firm that is investigating the technology to see if it might have application in a healthcare environment.

Image Server can be installed as part of a client-server computer network, with image data stored on the server in a tiled file format called FlashPix. When the server receives a request for data from a client workstation, it initially sends to the client workstation a low-resolution reference image, thus speeding transmission times. Users can gain access to additional resolution by pointing and clicking on a region of interest in the image, at which point Image Server will immediately render the region of interest using a lossy or lossless JPEG compression algorithm, and will transfer the more detailed image to the client workstation for review.

"You'll see an image on your screen, go to it with your mouse, click on the image, and zoom in," said John Ison, vice president of marketing at Live Picture. "That's all there is to it."

In contrast with many other network-based multimedia image distribution technology, no special client software or plug-ins are required with Image Server, Ison said.

Image Server benefits from the use of standards-based technologies such as FlashPix and Internet Imaging Protocol, which are both espoused by the Digital Imaging Group (DIG). Founded by companies such as Adobe, Canon, Kodak, Fuji, Hewlett-Packard, Live Picture, and Microsoft, DIG (www.digitalimaging.org) is a consortium of vendors that is seeking to grow the market for digital imaging technology.

Kodak is one of the original investors in Live Picture. In 1995, Kodak and Live Picture collaborated on a demonstration of FlashPix technology, then called IVue, at a Kodak digital imaging presentation in San Francisco.

At this point, however, Rochester, NY-based Kodak has no imminent plans to include FlashPix technology in its PACS product line, although the company is open to the possibility in the future, said Lori Martin, director of product line management for digital systems in the company's Health Imaging division.

"It's a great technology and we want to take advantage of it," she said. "But we might need to make some modifications for medical imaging. We won't know that until we do more work with it."

If Kodak did employ the Live Picture technology, it would likely be in future releases of its own Web-based Image Server and viewing software package, which is nearing market.

The vendor displayed Image Server as a work-in-progress at the 1997 meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Shipments of that product line are expected to commence in the second quarter.

While Kodak remains an investor in the company, Live Picture is open to OEM agreements with any medical imaging vendor for Image Server, Ison said. The firm's sales organization will be calling on potential OEM clients soon. No direct sales effort to end users is planned, he said.

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