Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer type in the United States, and it’s also the deadliest form of skin cancer, causing more than 75 percent of skin-cancer deaths.
If caught early enough though, it is almost always curable. Now a camera, capable of taking snapshots of the entire human body and rendering high-resolution images of a patient’s skin may help doctors spot cancer early and save lives.
Developed by a team of researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, the “gigapixel whole-body photographic camera” is essentially three dozen cameras in one, allowing the researchers to image the entire body down to a freckle.
“The camera is designed to find lesions potentially indicating skin cancers on patients at an earlier stage than current skin examination techniques,” said Daniel Marks, one of the co-authors on the paper. “Normally a dermatologist examines either a small region of the skin at high resolution or a large region at low resolution, but a gigapixel image doesn’t require a compromise between the two.”
Example of the detail of part of a 250 megapixel skin cancer screening image for the entire body
Although whole-body photography has already been used to identify melanomas and exclude non-dangerous “stable” lesions, the approach is typically limited by the resolution of the cameras used. A commercial camera with a wide-angle lens can easily capture an image of a person’s entire body, but it lacks the resolution needed for a dermatologist to zoom in on one tiny spot. So dermatologists typically examine suspicious lesions with digital dermatoscopy, a technique to evaluate the colors and microstructures of suspicious skins not visible to the naked eyes. The need for two types of images drives up costs and limits possibilities for telemedicine.
The gigapixel camera developed by the Duke University team solves this problem by essentially combining 34 microcameras into one. With a structure similar to a telescope and its eyepieces, the camera combines a precise but simple objective lens that produces an imperfect image with known irregularities. The 34 microcameras are arranged in a “dome” to correct these aberrations and form a continuous image of the scene. The exposure time and focus for each microcamera can be adjusted independently, and a computer can do a preliminary examination of the images to determine if any areas require future attention by the specialists.
Marks pointed out that although the resolution of the gigapixel camera is not as high as the best dermatoscope, it is significantly better than normal photography, allows for a larger imaging area than a dermatoscope and could be used for telemedicine, which could make the routine screening available to a larger number of people, even in remote locations.
The gigapixel imaging technology is based on the multiscale camera design, which is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program “Advanced Wide Field-of-View Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation.”
Previously super high resolution cameras used for military and crime detection
The 1.5 gigapixel AWARE 10 camera, Triton, was completed in October 2013. A 4 gigapixel AWARE-10 was also completed. There is continuing research and work towards 10 gigapixel and 50 gigapixel cameras. Duke is working with DARPA on gigapixel cameras and eventually petapixel cameras. Duke also developed the high resolution camera for skin cancer screening.
Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) flies a small Cessna aircraft 10,000 feet overhead. The surveillance planes is loaded up with specialized 192 megapixel cameras that could watch 25 square miles of territory, and it provided something no ordinary helicopter or police plane could: a Tivo-style time machine that could watch and record movements of every person and vehicle below.
After learning about the attempted robberies, PSS conducted frame-by-frame video analysis of the bookstore and sandwich shop and was able to show that exactly one car traveled between them. Further analysis showed that the suspect then moved on to a Family Dollar store in the northern part of the city, robbed it, stopped for gas—where his face was captured on video—and eventually returned home.
A person shows up as one single pixel and they can track movement of the person to a vehicle and then track the movement of vehicles.
50 gigapixel cameras are being developed. Long duration drones are becoming more inexpensive.
Each 50 gigapixel camera could track 110 kilometers by 110 kilometers.
About 900 drones in the air at the same time with 50 gigapixel cameras could monitor movement over every part of the United States.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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