Virtual Console uses off-the-shelf PCsTimes may be tough for companies competing for a share of thecut-throat diagnostic ultrasound market, but not tough enoughto keep new companies from entering the fray. Perception Imaging is the industry's
Times may be tough for companies competing for a share of thecut-throat diagnostic ultrasound market, but not tough enoughto keep new companies from entering the fray.
Perception Imaging is the industry's newest member. The Miami-basedfirm made its entrance at the 1994 Radiological Society of NorthAmerica exhibition, introducing low-cost portable scanners andan innovative approach to console design.
Perception Imaging was organized around the idea of using acomputer platform to build ultrasound machines, said CEO MartinDoyle. Because of microprocessor advances, Perception's engineersdiscovered they could use off-the-shelf workstation technologyto deliver inexpensive scanners that are easier to use, less costlyto build and more flexible in accepting future upgrades and enhancementsthan competing products, he said.
Most of Perception's first-year effort was devoted to developingthe Virtual Console Control System shown at the 1994 RSNA meeting.Perception's designers converted controls typically located onthe console into virtual knobs represented as software-generatedicons on the computer's monitor. Features are activated and adjustedby either a touch screen or mouse.
Virtual Console can be custom-configured, Doyle said. Minorsoftware alterations can be made if the sonographer prefers slidebars rather than knobs. By using presets, the console can be configuredfor specific applications or sonographer or radiologist preferences.
The advantage to Perception's approach, according to Doyle,is that its engineers can use any generally available productwhen adding accessories to their PC-based platform. Generic CD-ROMequipment can be used, for example, if Perception wanted to introducea CD-ROM option, he said.
Perception Ultrasound is the brainchild of several experiencedultrasound engineers. Chief engineer William Glenn is a formerdirector of research for the CBS television network and manageda 700-person CBS laboratory in the early 1970s. He wrote a NationalScience Foundation study on the potential of medical ultrasoundmore than 30 years ago and designed the original Biosound scanner.Most recently, he was director of the imaging systems laboratoryat Florida Atlantic University.
Albert Vara is the firm's chief software engineer. Vara holdsa master's degree in electrical engineering from the Universityof Miami. Previous assignments include pacemaker design work forseveral manufacturers. Chief scientist Dr. Jeffrey Raines holdsa medical degree from Harvard University and an advanced engineeringdegree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Doyle specializedin financing start-up companies.
Food and Drug Administration 510(k) applications were filedin December 1994 for three ultrasound systems that feature VirtualConsole. They include HRS 5000, a cart-based machine; HRS 2000,a desktop scanner; and HRS 1000, a 29-pound portable scanner.
An initial line of mechanical transducers that operate withany of the three scanners is being designed, and work is beingconducted on electronic probes. Perception has also developeda 15-MHz end-fire probe and intends to introduce a full line ofprobes for dermatological, laparoscopic, endoscopic and vascularapplications, Doyle said. A color-flow Doppler option is alsobeing planned.
The company is initially addressing niche markets, such aslaparoscopic surgery, according to Doyle. Perception's engineersare close to rolling out a small-diameter intraoperative probefor that set of applications. Dermatology and ophthalmology arealso likely target markets.
Perception is working with the vascular laboratory at JacksonMemorial Hospital in Miami. Company officials anticipate the additionof as many as five more beta sites in the first quarter of 1995.