The typical X-ray, printed out on a black-and-white slide, hasn’t changed that much in the last hundred years. It’s something patients rarely see; most of us have only a vague idea about exactly what lies beneath our skin. A new digital mirror could change that.
Standing in front of the mirror, you can see yourself inside out, moving in real time. The same tech can be used to change how doctors diagnose disease or perform an operation.
It requires a lot of expensive equipment to function. After you get a 3-D scan of your insides with MRI, X-ray, and PET machines, the high-res images are fed into the mirror. When you step in front of the device, a Kinect camera tracks your movement and animates the medical images, so you can see exactly how your organs and muscles move as you bend and turn.
“It relates general anatomy with one’s body in an obvious way,” says Xavier Maître, a medical imaging researcher at the University of Paris-South. He created a version of the device that people could interact with even if they hadn’t gone through hours of scans.
In an exhibit and a separate experiment, Maître set up the mirror so anyone passing by could get a simulation of their inner body. The machine automatically guessed whether someone was male or female, and then projected a generic image that matched their gender and height and moved along with them.
Maître thinks that the device could start to affect how people think about their health. “In the same way we take care of the strand of hair once we spot it in the mirror, we might take care of our inner self,” he says.
If someone has a medical need to get 3-D scans, they could bring a personalized image home. “People could have their own private mirror at their home so they could check their own inner reflection every day,” Maître says.
For a surgeon, the tech could be used to virtually look through someone’s body to check the position of a tool without actually touching, to avoid introducing infection. Doctors could project an image of someone’s insides on their actual body to make a more accurate diagnosis or better explain a disease to a patient. Eventually, radiologists could possibly use the technology to scan someone’s body while looking at their 3-D avatar.
For now, Maître is exploring some philosophical questions the mirror brings up: Do people see these inner parts of themselves as something private and intimate? As medical images change, will people relate to them more?
As he develops a version of the mirror that he is testing with the public, he will be adding more details to make the 3-D avatar more realistic–the avatar will eventually match the person’s shape and sync with their breathing and heartbeat to show what’s happening inside in more detail.
The show will be displayed this June at an art center called La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris.