November 7, 2007 The use of 3D imaging in the medical field has proven to be a boon to doctors when diagnosing patients, and 3D models of the human body have assisted medical manufacturers in developing better medical devices and treatments. Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut HHI in Berlin have developed a display that combines a 3-D screen with a non-contact user interface that allows images to be rotated by hand gestures much like the display Tom Cruise played with in the film Minority Report.

The display was developed for medical use where traditional ways of interacting with displays through touch runs the risk of compromising the sterility of work environments. With the newly developed non-contact image control system a physician can rotate a three-dimensional CAT scan image that appears to float before their eyes with a gesture of their fingers, while with another gesture they can click onto the next image.

The system works by utilizing images from three cameras, two of which are installed above the display and a third which is integrated into the frame of the display. The two cameras above the display see the pointing finger from different angles, alloing image-processing software to identify the exact position of the finger in a three-dimensional space. The third camera scans the user’s face and eyes to identify the inclination of the user’s head and the direction in which the eyes are focused and the associated software generates the appropriate pair of stereoscopic images for each eye. The cameras record one hundred frames per minute so, even if the user moves their head, the system instantly adapts the images.

“In this way, the user always sees a high-quality three-dimensional image on the display, even while moving about. This is essential in an operating theater, and allows the physician to act naturally when carrying out routine tasks,” says Wolfgang Schlaak, who heads the department that developed the display, “The unique feature of this system is that it combines a 3-D display screen with a non-contact user interface.”