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■ ■ ■ ■ VR•Medical Inside T A three-person technical team at the Weill Cornell Medical College helps researchers and surgeons visualize data inside a virtual-reality Cave O 28 On the 13th fl oor of a building in the middle of Manhattan, an eye surgeon wearing a head tracker steps inside a three-dimensional image of a patient’s retina projected onto the walls of a virtual-reality Cave. “We construct the 3D image from slices taken with an optical coher- ence tomography (OCT) scanner,” explains Luis Gracia, assistant im- aging technology engineer at the Weill Cornell Medical College. “[T e surgeon] can fi nd things by scrolling through the slices on his desktop, but the Cave is just two fl ights up the stairs from his offi ce, and in the Cave, he can see everything in fi ve seconds.” Gracia, along with system administrator Vanessa Borcherding and assistant professor/technology engineer Jason Banfelder, has spent the past year and a half introducing surgeons, researchers, and others at the medical college to the advantages of interacting with data in immersive stereo 3D. T e group works with the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, and the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Institute for Computational Biomedicine at the Weill Cornell medical college; the CAVE facility is part of the David A. Cofrin Cen- ter for Biomedical Information. “In the beginning, people almost didn’t believe it,” Borcherding says. “We really had to grab them by the wrist and say, ‘You have to see this. It is as cool as we say.’ When they saw it, they appreciated and understood what it gave them.” T e Ophthalmology Department within the medical college was among the fi rst to benefi t. “T ey were looking at certain diseases that produce tiny, cystic spaces in the retina,” Banfelder says. “In the slices, they look like clumps of four or fi ve together. But in 3D and in stereo, it becomes apparent that it is often one single body with tubular con- nections between the clumps; one contiguous space that is convex here and concave there. T at wasn’t known or appreciated before.” A stroke of luck provided the impetus for the Cave: A donation from Dr. David A. Cofrin specifi cally earmarked for a Cave. “He wanted to give one to the school,” Banfelder says. “I think he saw one and thought it was cool.” Knowing that funding would be in place, Banfelder took a road trip to look at how people in various industries used Caves, and to learn about the various vendors. Eventually, the team chose Christie Digital Systems (see “Building a Cave,” pg. 31), which provided a turnkey solution. October 2010 Luis Gracia, Jason Banfelder, and Vanessa Borcherding stand inside the VR Cave they helped design and now support for surgeons and biomedical researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical Center.

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