Imagine if doctors could see through a patient's skin, and their perspective of the underlying bones and organs changed accordingly as the person moved around. Well, that's what scientists at the University of Alberta have developed – kind of. It's still in the experimental phase, and is known as ProjectDR.

The technology doesn't actually make the skin transparent, nor does it provide real-time images of the insides of the patient. Instead, it projects previously-obtained three-dimensional CT or MRI images onto the skin, so that they line up with the corresponding parts of the patient.

The system incorporates a projector, infrared cameras, and markers that are placed in strategic locations on the patient's body. The cameras track those markers, allowing the system to know the orientation of the body, so that the images projected onto the skin can move as the patient does.

It's also possible for the system to project segmented images, such as only the lungs or only the blood vessels, depending on what the situation calls for.

"There are lots of applications for this technology, including in teaching, physiotherapy, laparoscopic surgery and even surgical planning," says Ian Watts, a computing science graduate student who created the system along with grad student Michael Fiest.

ProjectDR is demonstrated in the video below.

View gallery - 3 images