Computers as surgeons
Computers with a human-like ability to see could one day act as virtual surgeons, a study suggests. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, Henry Samuel School of Engineering and Applied Science say such computers could render safer and faster brain surgery, endoscopies and other medical procedures. "In practice, the human visual system is still by far the best around," said Stefano Soatto, assistant professor of computer science and head of the UCLA Vision Lab. "But this may not be so for long." His team is looking at how people use vision to interact with others and with their surroundings and designing systems that will permit computers to do likewise. The work could have an impact on image-guided surgery, in which doctors use sophisticated imaging technology to help them perform surgical procedures. One example is the use of technology that merges multiple images to create a 3-D map of a patient's brain. These images are often a day old, and if the procedure itself alters conditions, the images become useless. A computer that understands and acts within its environment could not only recreate and constantly update a 3-D model of the brain but also use what it "sees" to perform tasks otherwise done by surgeons, Soatto said.
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