Medical students long ago gave up robbing graves for corpses, but students still need access to anatomy resources. While availability of traditional resources (e.g. cadavers, animals, etc.) is dwindling, emerging virtual alternatives are revolutionizing the practice of medicine. Interest in virtual aids derives from decades of success in aviation and the military. These industries-just as in healthcare-are hazardous and complex with very low tolerance for failure. Virtual environments have enabled training in these industries to become faster, safer, more measurable and more reproducible with computer-aided instruction. As a result, virtual 2D anatomy tables have recently appeared that display life-size anatomy across age, sex and body types. These tables use both synthesized models and real medical scans (e.g. CT, MRI, ultrasound) to generate dynamic visuals (changing tissue colors, pulsating arteries, etc.) that are not possible with cadavers. However, 2D renderings, or even sequential 2D slices, on these tables require students to mentally infer 3D spatial relationships. The 2D visuals require extra mental steps to disambiguate vascular networks or to understand 3D surface structures. Thus, an immersive 3D gap exists between today's real, yet limited, traditional anatomy resources and tomorrow's highly dynamic, yet virtual, resources. To address this gap, Third Dimension Technologies (TDT) proposes research with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and BioDigital Systems to develop HoloHuman-a ground- breaking holographic 3D anatomy table-as a major leap forward to complement traditional training. The key innovation of HoloHuman is TDT's Holographic Angular Slice 3D Display (HAS3D), which is an electronic holographic stereogram that reproduces all human visual cues. TDT plans in Phase I to show feasibility by;
Aim 1 : collaborating with Vanderbilt and BioDigital to define requirements;
Aim 2 : proving feasibility of the high-risk 3D holographic rendering;
Aim 3 : developing a Conceptual Design for the HoloHuman prototype to be built in Phase II;
and Aim 4 : developing an experimental curriculum plan to evaluate the effectiveness of Phase II prototype. TDT will position HoloHuman as complementary to anatomy training. TDT estimates total available market of the world's 2,334 medical schools (170 in US) to be at least $900M. Two companies currently offer virtual anatomy tables, Sectra (Sweden) and Anatomage (US), with prices from $60K to $200K. HoloHuman will move beyond these 2D products with a next-gen, glasses-free, holographic 3D display at comparable prices. Beyond training, future areas include surgical planning, diagnostic radiology, virtual autopsy, patient education and telemedicine.

Public Health Relevance

Clinical care has grown incredibly complex while economic and societal pressures continue to mount to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Yet, for training the next generation of physicians and clinicians, access to traditional anatomy resources such as cadavers and animals continues to dwindle despite growing training needs. Evidence of the complexity of care is the plethora of 3D medical data now available from CT, MRI, PET and ultrasound. As medical students are relying more and more on such 3D medical imaging, a better understanding of how this 3D imagery relates to real-world anatomy is critical. As a result, a 3D holographic anatomy table that allows visualization of real 3D data overlaid and integrated with anatomic 3D models will expand the effectiveness of medical computer-aided instruction and reduce training costs. TDT proposes HoloHuman as such a table and as a leap forward in medical training to new unforeseen capabilities that are not possible today.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Wu, Mary Ann
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Third Dimension Technologies
United States
Zip Code