Photography, film, and X-ray technology

How can X-ray images be shown in three dimensions? 

Katharina Schroll-Bakes
Published on September 1, 2020

The key to innovative technology is inspiration. When it comes to adding a third dimension to X-ray images, it is generally methods from the worlds of photography and film that have provided our developers with this inspiration over the last 125 years.

<p>1851: The first World Expo, known as the Great Exhibition, was held in London. Visitors were enthralled by a new technology known as stereoscopy that allowed people to view photos in 3D. The technique soon became a huge success – and scores of photographers began traveling around the world to take snapshots of exotic destinations and imposing buildings using stereoscopic cameras. Now, anyone equipped with a stereoscope could travel to distant lands from the comfort of their own armchair, and by 1900 stereoscopy had already become a popular mass medium. It is no wonder, therefore, that the discovery of X-rays was quickly followed by the first experiments into stereo X-ray images.</p>
Getty images, Weltausstellung 851

Stereo X-ray imaging 

Röhreneinstellung für stereoskopische Röntgenaufnahmen

Tube positioning for stereoscopic X-ray images
Source: Janker, Robert: Röntgen-Aufnahmetechnik. Teil I.  Allgemeine Grundlagen und Einstellungen, 1966, p. 15

Prismenstereoskop nach Dr. Walter von Reiniger, Gebbert & Schall, Katalog 1905

Prismenstereoskop nach Dr. Walter von Reiniger, Gebbert & Schall, Katalog 1905 

<p>1922: New York’s Selwyn Theatre became the first movie theater to use the Teleview system – invented by Laurens Hammond, this was a forerunner of the shutter technology now used in 3D television, for example. Synchronized viewing devices were attached to the armrest of each theater seat to provide the audience with an immersive viewing experience as they watched the 3D movie The Man from M.A.R.S. Perhaps this technique could also be used to view not only individual images but also an entire X-ray video in 3D?</p>
Illustration des Teleview-Systems, 1922
Stereoaufnahmegerät von Siemens-Reiniger-Veifa, 1927

Stereoaufnahmegerät von Siemens-Reiniger-Veifa, 1927 

<p>2014: The computer-animated mythical being Gollum provided the impetus for a development that marked a new era in 3D imaging. This character from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy gave the developers at Siemens Healthineers an idea: They wondered how it was possible for Gollum to look so strikingly real alongside human actors despite having been inserted into the scenes after they were filmed. The answer was a technique known as “image-based lighting calculation,” and a team of researchers led by Klaus Engel at Siemens Healthineers used this know-how from the animation film industry to develop their own cinematic rendering technology. Based on medical imaging data, the technique generates photorealistic images of the inside of the body using complex algorithms that model bones, organs, skin, and blood as well as simulating natural lighting.</p>
Lungenflügel und Organe des Bauchraumes mit Herz und Leber. Der kleine orangene Fleck im rechten Lungenflügel des Patienten zeigt einen Lungentumor. Die weißen „Blasen“ im unteren Bauchraum stellen den Dünndarm dar.
Anatomie-Vorlesung anhand von Darstellungen mit Cinematic Rendering im Deep Space 8K des Ars Electronica Centers in Linz

Anatomy lecture using cinematic rendering images at Deep Space 8K at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz
Source: Ars Electronica/Robert Bauernhansl

Cinematic Rendering und die Microsoft HoloLens 2  Copyright: Deutscher Zukunftspreis/Ansgar Pudenz

Cinematic Rendering and Microsoft HoloLens 2
Copyright: Deutscher Zukunftspreis/Ansgar Pudenz

Katharina Schroll-Bakes
Katharina Schroll-Bakes
By Katharina Schroll-Bakes

Expert for History Communication and Historian at the Siemens Healthineers Historical Institute