Scientists in Norway are exploring ways to stream high definition images of the human organs via a pill that's swallowed by patients.
The imaging pill concept would give medical professionals the capacity to view parts of the body - like the intestines and stomach - in unprecedented detail.
The technology current exists for pills to be swallowed that transmit at a rate of 120 frames a minute, or two a second. In contrast, said the development team's leader, Ilangko Balasingham: ‘Our pill will employ wireless ultra-wideband technology with enough bandwidth to handle the live, high-quality video transmission of observations from the intestine. It will also communicate its co-ordinates via radio so that the doctors can pinpoint its location in the body.'
High Definition Camera Pill
The programme to develop a high definition camera pill is known as ‘Melody' and it involves a number of partners. These include NTNU (the Norwegian University of Science and Technology), UiO (the University of Oslo) and FFI (the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment). Funding comes from the VERDIKT (Research Programme on Core Competence and Value Creation in ICT) effort, overseen by the Research Council of Norway.
The high definition camera pill concept's already been tested in trials involving pigs, which have yielded positive results. They've shown that a camera pill-type device can successfully generate strong video signals, providing the transmitter's inserted no more than five centimetres into the chest cavity or the abdomen. Any deeper and the interaction between the transmitter, inside the body, and the external antenna used to pick up the signals becomes less dependable, but that's just one development area being explored.
HD Medical Imaging
There's also the issue of data processing, given the researchers are aiming for an HD medical imaging transmission rate of 30 frames a second. To handle this sheer volume of data, the Norwegian scientists have come up with an algorithm that squashes the video by 97 per cent. According to reports, the resultant footage - at three per cent of the size at which it started - maintains enough quality to still be usable in medical imaging.
Once perfected, the camera pill technique could have countless medical applications but it could also be used elsewhere. As Balasingham adds: "We envision using the camera pill for purposes such as looking for damage in underwater oil pipes"
Image copyright Gilbert Tremblay. Used for representational purposes only