4Front Experts Visualize 3D Imaging in Scientific Research

John Paul Francis and Kyle McClary are literally adding a new dimension to medical and scientific imaging data, and their work may help accelerate research breakthroughs in the coming years.

Francis and McClary are cofounders of Microscape, a project that leverages 3D+ virtual reality (VR) gaming technology to create a suite of collaboration tools that allow researchers to share imaging data in 3D multiplayer and multi-presence environments. Francis and McClary are among the visionaries who will share their work at CableLabs’ 4Front Conference, June 15–16.

In a recent podcast, the two imaging entrepreneurs said that their collaboration began in 2015 at the University of Southern California (USC). While working at a VR lab there, Francis attended a talk given by McClary on the use of VR in bioscience research and was intrigued by the concept. Afterward, they met and started to collaborate on a new vision: Take the amazing images that bioscience researchers were producing and plug those into a VR headset.

“So, yes, it was an art project, but we also knew there was a technical reason to do it,” McClary says.

They began working on the technology, combining medical scans and microscope imaging from the university’s medical school with VR technology developed for computer gaming. They also drew on a ready talent pool, hiring several students from USC’s game development department.

“On a project like this, it’s a matter of getting the right people together, like at a university,” McClary says. “A university really is a unique place filled with diverse people who are interested in all kinds of things and looking to learn and grow. I think a university is a perfect place for this.”

Five years later, Microscape’s platform offers imaging tools that allow researchers to share VR and 3D imaging data seamlessly on a range of PC, Mac and even mobile devices. The beta version of the product is now available for download on Microscape’s website, and the company is seeking venture funding to support further marketing and development. So far, the company’s client list includes a couple hundred imaging researchers from among 10 to 15 imaging labs at USC, as well as a growing list of other research consortiums.

“People are ready for this concept,” Francis says. “It’s just a matter of integrating with what they have and getting it out there.”

The research indicates that people are indeed ready. According to recent Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, VR and augmented reality (AR) applications for industrial and enterprise applications will create a $16.1 billion market by 2025. Of that market, VR and AR applications for healthcare will total about $5.1 billion and include about 3.4 million users.

At the 4Front conference, Francis and McClary plan to share a Microscape demo, allowing two people to view and interact with a medical image using various types of devices. “There’s a lot of directions we can take,” Francis says, “so we’ll just see what our tack is, and we’ll share the coolest demo we can put up.”

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