Larry Smarr has inflammatory bowel disease. He also happens to run a high performance computing institute and a virtual reality cave. He has put together a gigantic 3-D replica of his colon that details the inflamed tissue. It took years of work develop a the colon model made possible by working with a top virtual reality developer and 2-D MRI slices outlining each organ.
Smarr’s surgeon Ramamoorthy used his VR cave and immediately saw a section to avoid cutting. Part of his colon was located directly on top of his bladder. He also had a section of large intestine adhered to his spleen (another area to avoid incisions). During the actual surgury Ramamoorthy used the four-armed da Vinci surgical robot combined with four views 3-D model, MRI and two cameras inside Smarr’s body.
His goal is to create software that could automate the creation of 3-D images of organs, and he thinks imaging companies could be using such software within three to five years. He also thinks his institute can play a role in training a new generation of medical imaging VR experts.
For now, he offers digital tours of his body to physicians who ask and gives talks — sometimes alongside Ramamoorthy— about the power of 3-D visuals.
“Do you want to hold my colon?” he’ll ask as he hands out a 3-D printed replica of the organ.