Internet 2: A virtual liver tour?
May 19, 1998
by Nancy Weil
-- ORLANDO, Florida -- For anyone who has ever wanted to take a walk
through a liver -- and, hey, who hasn't? -- the day to fulfill that
desire may be fast arriving, thanks to research work being done in part
for the Internet2 project.
Using magnetic resonance imaging, it may be possible soon to take
a picture of an internal organ and create a virtual tour of it.
And what possible useful purpose might this serve?
"Surgery, for example," said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager
of IBM's Internet division during an interview this week at the company's
Technical Interchange developer's conference here.
In the future, surgeons may be able to take an MRI of, say, a liver
and duplicate the picture on computers to take a virtual walk through
the organ to plan for surgery.
"A lot of this is in the realm of the possible," Wladawsky-Berger
said. "What we don't know is -- are they in the realm of the usable."
While various companies work to build the Internet2's infrastructure,
researchers are trying to answer those types of questions. The Internet2
is a project of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development,
a consortium of some 100 U.S. research universities, nonprofit agencies
and government entities. IBM is a corporate sponsor of the project.
As one of IBM's key players in Internet strategy, Wladawsky-Berger
has been working on the Internet2 project, which is expected to create
new points of presence nationwide by 2000 for a network expected to
have speeds up to 2.4G bit/sec. The network will be the province of
university and government researchers who access and transmit data-intensive
files on the increasingly clogged, increasingly slower Internet.
A lot of the work being done now on the
Internet2 involves coming up with standards for the flow of data and voice
over the Internet, Wladawsky-Berger said. Various pilot projects related
to the high-speed network will be announced in coming months.
As the pace picks up, he predicted that "one day you'll wake up and
find it's exploding on the marketplace," much as the Internet did. "You
can begin to see things happening that weren't six months ago. ... All
of a sudden, great inventions happen."
And, maybe some that aren't so great.
Speaking of "virtual immersion" and the ability to tour body parts,
Wladawsky-Berger said, "A lot of this stuff is weird."