In the second part of the interview with Ms Tamsin Greulich-Smith, we learn about how the Centre applies the principle of human-centric design. The Centre is working on an integrated care pilot project in collaboration with Lions Befrienders, a voluntary welfare organisation, which provides friendship and care for seniors to age in place, as well as Yishun Community Hospital and Allied World Healthcare.
The project aims to transition senior citizens back into the community more quickly after a hospital stay and in a way that allows them to look after themselves better when they are discharged, through integrating them with community services.
The question being explored in the project is: Can a personal artificial intelligence (AI) device encourage seniors to look after themselves better.
The elderly can get socially isolated when they live alone, and then they may stop caring for themselves.
Ms Greulich-Smith explained, “Some seniors can start to give up, when they live alone. They don’t bother to go out because they may have lost confidence or lost purpose. Then they may get a little depressed, which can result in them losingtheir appetite and stop eating so well. Their health suffers. They might stop taking their medication or get confused. They get anxious about various things, which can affect the quality of their health.”
The AI device can help remind the senior citizens about different things, designed to encourage them to take better care of themselves. It can prompt them to eat, reminding them to start the day with breakfast, for example. It can prompt them to exercise or complete their rehabilitation exercises. It also reminds them to take their medication and encourages them to join daily activities for seniors in their local Senior Activity Centres. The system also integrates with Lions Befrienders Silver Bow campaign, which sends seniors messages from members of the community. Ultimately, through this range of engagement, the seniors might form a relationship with the technology, if it is designed correctly.
This pilot is a rolling programme of onboarding patients, based on when the patients are ready to be discharged from the hospital. The patients who seem viable to take part in the pilot are asked if they are interested. If the answer is in the affirmative, then Lions Befrienders step in to explain the project to them and assess them for their suitability. The patients are assessed over a 4-week period while they are in the hospital. Once they are discharged, and the consents completed, the technology is placed in their home which comprises a dashboard providing a shared patient view and the aforementioned AI device for some of them.
The human-centric approach in practice
In this project, the Centre has tried to adopt the human-centric approach advocated by Ms Greulich-Smith. And the results have been illuminating.
The Centre held a design workshop for seniors, in their 80s and 90s, to get their inputs for an artificial intelligence (AI) device to be placed in their homes. The team had the basic device, as in an unadorned version of the device, to help the seniors understand how to interact with it. The workshop also explored various design options with the seniors, to either conceal or otherwise improve the appearance of the device.
Prior to the workshop, most of the professionals working with the seniors had assumed that the seniors would not want the ‘ugly’ unadorned technology in their house. They would want it to be camouflaged. But the seniors chose the raw technology!
They had a pragmatic attitude. Their primary concern was that if the voice-activated device is placed inside something else, it won’t hear them so well. ‘I don’t want anything to possibly prevent the technology from hearing my voice’.
The second reason for their choice was a sense of pride in having this modern technology in their home. The device would become an attention grabber, as neighbours popping in asked about the device.
“So we cannot make assumptions about people’s motivations, desires and concerns. The design process is important because it stops us making assumptions, and helps us improve the impact of our solutions” Ms Greulich-Smith said.
In order to quickly prototype a model in the first stage, an off-the-shelf device was used for the AI component. Though there were concerns that the off-the-shelf device was not doing a lot of the things the seniors want or require. For instance, the device doesn’t speak or understand Hokkien or Singlish. Which requires the project team to find seniors who can speak English, and there aren’t so many of them. And if they do speak English, their accent isn’t easily understood by the device. However, the flaws in the off-the-shelf solution need not be cause for concern.
“I said, well I think that’s fantastic. This is our sacrificial concept. This means that we are creating this very long list of things we will design out in our own model during subsequent phases,” Ms Greulich-Smith said.
She explained that the key thing about prototyping is having the bravery to welcome failure and make the list of failings as long as possible. Because the longer it is the better the design will be in the next phase. The aim is to learn from the positives as well as the negatives.
In addition, the team observed that the seniors are loving having this this technology in spite of all the flaws. So, if those failings can be designed out, the team might have something that the seniors will genuinely start to have a positive relationship with.
“If we scale too soon, we have an expensive mess to fix. But if we just have a small pilot perfectly intended for prototyping and testing, then we are allowed to fail.”
Once the team has robust evidence that the approach is working, then they will seek funding either through their own institute or through a grant-funding body to explore scaling up. At the moment, the project is focused on one geographical area and patients from one community hospital. It could be
expanded across the island and to more community hospitals. Taking a different tack, acute care hospitals could also be considered which present a very different situation.
In the second phase, the team will build its own AI device tailored to meet the needs of Singaporean seniors living alone at home. This will be based on the learnings from phase 1.
Ms Greulich-Smith said, “Our plan is to have an opportunity to eventually, nationally scale part of that model, if not all of it.”
There might be privacy concerns and challenges once the project is scaled up. At the moment, it is explained to the seniors that the data is only used within the project and it is not shared. In the next phase, researchers might give the seniors a download of the questions they have asked and let them remove anything they don’t want others to see.
The shared patient view is used as a collaboration and engagement tool, for caregivers and next of kin to monitor their condition and check things like if they are having their meals on time. So, it is important for the seniors to understand that this information is being shared and to get their consent for who has access to the data.
With such challenges, the Centre’s approach is to explore them with a small group and spend time in understanding the issues as thoroughly as possible, and then responding to the issues that arise in an agile way.
A blossoming innovation hub
We brought up the topic of other similar projects in Singapore to help seniors age in place, some involving AI as well.
Ms Greulich-Smith reacted saying it’s wonderful. “It’s what we need. We need an island full of innovation, people experimenting and ex
ploring. That is really what is going to start to find the breakthrough solutions.”
“As soon we start trying to control that too much, we will lose the innovation culture. At the moment, Singapore is really blossoming as an innovation hub.”
She added that the Centre is always willing to share its findings and help other organisations with whatever projects they are conducting.
The Centre actively undertakes projects with different partners, and seeks opportunities to cross-fertilise across them. For the integrated care pilot, subsequent phases could see the Centre trialling adapted approaches with different partners to explore improvements and challenges in different settings. Over time, more partners are brought in to enhance the offering. The entire development process is collaboration-driven.
“Let’s see what we can learn by all of us exploring in different ways. Because there’s no one answer to the complex problems in healthcare,” she concluded.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) released the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, which outlines specific goals and plans for raising sustainability standards throughout the MICE sector in Singapore over the coming years.
The Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is a type of tourism travel in which groups of people are brought together for a specific reason, usually well in advance. On the other hand, the MICE market refers to a subset of people who plan, arrange, and facilitate conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and other events.
Part of STB’s overarching plan to develop a sustainable tourism sector is the use of such roadmaps, which direct businesses in the sector to achieve specific sustainability goals. Following the launch of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap earlier this year, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap is the second such project.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) serve as the roadmap’s guiding principles. Three goals are listed in the MICE Sustainability Roadmap to help Singapore become one of the most environmentally-friendly MICE destinations in Asia Pacific:
- By 2023, create a set of industry-acceptable sustainability standards with the goal of having them recognised internationally by 2024.
- For all six purpose-built MICE venues and 80% of SACEOS members to get internationally or nationally recognised sustainability certification, or both, by 2025.
- To attain net-zero emissions by 2050 in accordance with the country’s net-zero aim, the Singapore MICE sector must first track waste and carbon emissions by 2023, reduce waste in line with the Singapore Green Plan by 2030, and reduce waste overall by 2050.
The MICE Sustainability Committee (MSComm), established by STB and SACEOS in August 2022 to advance sustainability capabilities and create awareness of sustainability initiatives and best practices, will help the industry adopt sustainable practices and meet these goals.
The dedication to sustainability follows a robust MICE rebound in the wake of Singapore’s borders being reopened in April this year and a rising desire for environmentally friendly business travel. More importantly, the industry is aware of how crucial it is to lessen the environmental impact of MICE events.
With STB and SACEOS leading the charge and offering support as necessary to further develop a sustainable business events landscape in Singapore, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap will ensure that MICE players move forward in pursuing relevant and achievable sustainability goals that are tracked at appropriate milestones.
Meanwhile, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore is working with a large American technology company to address climate change-related challenges and enhance the sustainability of digital technologies.
The cooperation aims to hasten the local and international development of software applications and solutions to assist businesses in using their resources more efficiently.
The tech giant and IMDA will exchange best practices, standards, learnings, and certification pathways for accurate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions resulting from software applications. Through this relationship, the nation hopes to speed up the application of the ideas and resources needed to create green technologies.
According to IMDA, Southeast Asia is well-positioned for the region to take the lead in digital sustainability. This collaboration will produce cutting-edge digital sustainability solutions that can be used by multinational corporations, bringing about positive change for the environment worldwide and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and a US-based engineering company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the Centre for Humanistic Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CHAiR) for translational research with the goal of advancing the well-being of humanity.
The partnership aims to integrate the university’s interdisciplinary research capabilities and the company’s well-known humanoid robotics platform to explore technology applications. Sophia, the company’s most advanced human-like robot, will work with PolyU researchers to enhance the contribution of AI and robotic technology for social and commercial benefits.
Research into and applications of AI and robotics are essential to the advancement of industry. As an interdisciplinary research and development centre, CHAiR brings cross-faculty collaborations in research fields such as AI, the internet of things (IoT), neuroscience, design, computer science, mechanical engineering, material science, healthcare, and the humanities.
In collaboration with the company, CHAiR supports innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, and Otto Poon Charitable Foundation Professor in Data Science will serve as the principal investigator and administrative director of CHAiR. He will also serve alongside the CEO and Founder of the company as a co-chair of the Centre’s steering committee.
The MoU was signed by the Vice President (Research and Innovation) of PolyU and the CEO and Founder of the company. It was Witnessed by the President of PolyU and the Executive Director of the firm.
During the signing ceremony, Sophia made conversation with the guests. She said, “I look forward to learning many new skills and abilities. With your help, maybe I can learn how to be a nurse, a teacher, a concierge, a librarian. You can teach me how to be a better companion, a more skilful artist, a funnier entertainer.”
Meanwhile, the company’s CEO and Founder noted that the new centre is perfectly positioned to refine and improve the performance of Sophia-class robots in ways that promote the growth of a new service robot industry. As soon as the industry begins expanding, investment in improved hardware, software and manufacturing technologies will as well, he noted.
The President of PolyU noted that academia-industry collaboration is one of the most productive mechanisms for creating and implementing innovations. There is tremendous untapped potential for humanistic social robots. Let us aspire that CHAiR will be a major catalyst for the onset of the age of humanistic robots.
The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, who is also Director of the Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Things (RIAIoT), said the Institute has been working on practical solutions to key challenges in advanced AIoT technologies and applications.
He noted that the natural evolution for RIAIoT is to partner with the engineering firm to address increasingly ambitious opportunities in humanistic AI and social robotics. CHAiR will play a unique and key role to combine the firm’s knowledge with world-class academics here at PolyU.
The engineering company is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives. Sophia is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.
For inbound travellers’ arrival details and health declaration checklist, eTravel is a new contact tracking platform that replaces the One Health Pass and e-Arrival card in the Philippines. E-travel can now be accessed at the official website.
The new system is easy to use as travellers coming in can sign up with their personal profiles, travel information, and health declarations. When finishing this step, the user will get a QR code that is unique to them. This service is free, but people need to sign up at least 3 days before they arrive in the Philippines.
E-travel is developed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and is a joint initiative with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The interconnection, data-sharing, and synergy of all the many departments that are divided into several silos will now be combined into a single system that will be looking at a single point in time, according to DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy. Hence, it will make it easier for the people to interact with the government at the same time.
Meanwhile, to promote a unified government approach to E-Governance, the DICT’s Office of the Undersecretary for E-Government (OUEG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with partner government entities.
The Landbank of the Philippines, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, and the Mindanao Development Authority are all partners in this endeavour.
Through its efforts to digitally change government processes and government agencies, the DICT hopes to improve data standards and data governance, allowing for data harmonisation and coordination throughout the government.
The effort includes the creation, deployment, and integration of systems for Department flagship programmes such E-Local Government Units (ELGU), E-Government Applications (EGovApp), E-Govpay, E-Travel, and E-Cloud.
The MoU establishes the partner agencies as key players in the pursuit of digital transformation and e-governance. Since DICT considers harmony to be the foundation of clarity. Therefore, the goals of these initiatives are twofold: to construct a government that is enabled by ICT and to capacitate its development.
Furthermore, through the Career Certificates Scholarship Programme, a multinational technology business will provide free professional training to Filipinos. This programme is presently being provided by the DICT through the ICT Literacy and Competency Development Bureau (ILCDB).
With the help of this career certificates programme, appropriate skill development and tooling are now easier to obtain. By closing the digital divide and widening chances for Filipinos, the DICT seeks to expand ICT opportunities.
The agency urges Filipinos to apply for the scholarship and benefit from the free professional training created by one of the biggest software companies in the world.
The course can award credentials in IT support, project management, user experience (UX) design, and data analytics. Through this programme, Filipinos can gain new skills and connect with top employers while preparing for a new career in the rapidly expanding ICT industry.
The process is also practical for online education. Participants must be at least 18 years old, residents of and citizens of the Philippines, and capable of finishing the online course using their own device or gadget to be eligible to apply for the scholarship.
Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, helped launch construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory’s SKA-Low telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Country in Western Australia (WA).
The global SKA Observatory (SKAO) announced the start of on-site construction activity for both their telescopes, SKA-Low in Australia and SKA-Mid in South Africa. The SKA-Low telescope will be the first mega-science project co-hosted in Australia and will explore the Universe in more detail than ever before, transforming the current understanding of the cosmos and benefitting society through global collaboration and innovation.
The SKA project aims to help Australian expertise remain at the forefront of discovery as an example collaboration to drive innovation, especially the collaboration of the Wajarri Yamaji, Traditional Owners and native title holders of the telescope site.
The progress of the SKA project over the past two decades has allowed researchers to see further into the universe than ever before. It has driven innovation and inspired generations both new and old through the development of technologies to solve great challenges facing our planet by better understanding the universe.
The start of SKA-Low construction on site is the culmination of many dreams, both within CSIRO and the global astronomy community, and the next step on this journey of discovery. CSIRO is the SKAO’s operations partner for the SKA-Low telescope in Australia and holds multiple contracts for SKA-Low construction activities.
The SKA-Low telescope will spread across 74 km end-to-end at the WA observatory site alongside existing instruments including CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope.
The SKA-Low Telescope Director stated that the SKAO was pleased to have established operations and engineering centres in Australia, where SKAO works closely with CSIRO as operations partner. She noted that CSIRO has been involved in the SKA project since its inception and have been leaders in radio astronomy science and technology for more than 70 years. The SKA Observatory welcomes this partnership with CSIRO to build and operate the SKA-Low telescope in Western Australia, she added.
CSIRO is also a foundation member in other key SKA project partners in Australia, including the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre and the Australian SKA Regional Centre.
More about CSIRO’s role in the SKA project
Australia is a member of the international organisation established to build and operate the world’s most powerful radio astronomy facility, the SKA Observatory (SKAO). The SKA Observatory will consist of two radio-telescopes, one in Australia (SKA-Low), and one in South Africa (SKA-Mid). The two telescopes will observe the sky at different radio frequencies and complement each other scientifically.
CSIRO will be the operating partner for the SKA-Low telescope, as well as hosting the telescope itself at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.
SKA-Low will consist of an array of 131,072 Christmas tree-shaped antennas, grouped in 512 stations, each with 256 antennas. Several of these antenna stations will be placed in the centre and the rest will span out along three spiral arms, stretching 74 kilometres end to end. SKA-Low will operate at frequencies between 50 and 350 MHz, like FM radio and TV broadcasts.
In addition to its role as operations partner and managers of the telescope site, CSIRO will also contribute to the construction of the SKA-Low Telescope. CSIRO:
- Led the infrastructure design work and is collaborating with industry partners to manage the site infrastructure construction process. This includes its work with industry partner Aurecon to manage the infrastructure contracts in Australia, including the contract with an Australian-based business.
- Is working with university and industry partners to oversee the installation of SKA-Low antenna stations.
- Is managing the assembly, integration, and verification process – the work to connect and check all the individual sub systems and products are working correctly – together with international institutions.
- Is working with international research institutions to develop the central signal processing system of the telescope, the backend of the telescope that takes the signals from each antenna station and combines them before sending that information to the science data processing system.
- Is working with university partners to design the science data processing system, the supercomputer software that takes the data from the telescope and outputs the images astronomers use to study the universe.
With only three taps on their smartphone, computer, or tablet, caregivers of injured service members can access more than 2,000 materials from the U.S. Defense Health Agency (DHA).
A caregiver for her husband who was in the U.S. Army, Jamela Davis said, “It offers you the flexibility so whenever you need to locate that information, whatever you’re searching for, it’s right there at your fingertips.”
The eCRD is perfect for the more than 300,000 caregivers of wounded soldiers and veterans, Jamela continued. “Although using a phone for navigation is so simple, some people find it a little scary. It is therefore a useful tool to have.”
DHA stated that users can quickly locate the category they’re looking for by looking at the table of contents when they first access the eCRD, they can view the list of available materials from there.
An electronic platform called eCRD is based on the National Resource Directory (NRD). For military personnel, veterans, family members, and caregivers, the NRD is a database of verified services that aid in recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Defense are all involved in the effort.
One of its user-friendly aspects, according to Jonathan Morris with DHA’s Warrior Care Recovery Care Programmes Operations, is that when they update the NRD with new resources, they can be added to the eCRD right away with just a check box.
Other advances in the eCRD include straightforward navigation and link-based search, little scrolling, printing of single pages of text, and hyperlinks to each resource.
More than 300,000 free copies of the Caregiver Resource Directory have been given since it was first published in hard copy in 2015 and is updated yearly.
There are a variety of supports and resources available to caregivers and their families if they need to relocate so that the transition can be as seamless as possible.
By location, there are direct links to each of the military service relocation programmes, as stated by Morris.
He noted that the NRD and the eCRD connect moving caregivers and their families to programmes and agencies that assist them to settle in and provide virtual support through groups like the American Red Cross Military and Veterans Caregiver Network.
Caring for someone can be a fulltime commitment, so caregivers need to take care of themselves so they can keep doing their jobs and not get burned out.
Jamela added that she’s always looking for ways to rest and relax. This helps keep her mental health and well-being as a caregiver in good shape.
She has also used the Veteran Spouse Network and gone on caregiver retreats at an equestrian therapy ranch that has programmes for wounded warriors and their families. These programmes give her more “tools” for taking care of herself.
Also, emergencies can happen, and sometimes caregivers need help right away. Challenges for other caregivers could include anything from mental health to employment to education. Hence, caregivers need so much, and they just don’t know what kind of situation they will be in.
Users can also email the NRD and the content team will help them find resources even if those resources are in local communities churches.
Access to health care for caregivers, guides to community resources, caregiver resources for family members with traumatic brain injury, VA speciality resources for caregivers, and mental health support services for children of caregivers are the top five resources searched for this year on the eCRD and NRD.
Taiwan has successfully developed Point-of-Care (PoC) to provide rapid diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular oedema (DME). The PoC machine is a winner in the software/services category of the 2022 R&D 100 Awards. Taiwan’s most prominent high-tech applied research institutions claimed that the AI-assisted system is the first in the world and can be integrated into handheld and desktop fundus cameras commonly used in hospitals and clinics to detect DR and DME symptoms.
Using the PoC system, DR and DME can be diagnosed in as little as 5 to 10 seconds. The machine then assesses image quality instantly before diagnosis to avoid AI misinterpretation. Based on fundus images, it marks lesions and assigns severity levels to them. Furthermore, the Point-of-Care AI-DR can detect 14 other common ocular fundus abnormalities such as retinal diseases, blood vessel changes, and optic nerve diseases.
Due to its ease of use, general practitioners can conduct early screening for DR and DME complications. It can also determine whether a patient should see an ophthalmologist. Screening through primary care physicians raises screening rates, lowers treatment costs, and allow patients early detection outcome.
According to the International Diabetes Foundation, 537 million adults aged 20 to 79 worldwide had diabetes in 2021. The Foundation expects the number to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of people with diabetes will develop DR, and one in every 15 will develop DME.
Point-of-Care AI-DR improves diabetes health monitoring and management by identifying lesions and severity stages of DR and DME. The PoC also lowers the risks of vision loss or blindness caused by diabetic eye complications. In addition, tracking changes in fundus symptoms over time allows physicians to gain a thorough understanding of a patient’s diabetes development status. The function is critical for diabetes management because the AI PoC can monitor changes in fundus symptoms. This is more reliable than the usual tracking of blood sugar levels which can change right before patient examination.
“Point-of-Care AI-DR is a collaboration result of human and artificial intelligence. The machine works based on ophthalmologists’ expertise and AI analysis. In addition, it uses complementary medical AI models to perform individual diagnostic tasks such as classifying and detecting symptoms to improve overall interpretation efficiency,” said Dr Pang-An Ting, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) General Director of Information and Communications Research Laboratories.
To develop Point-of-Care AI-DR, ITRI enlisted 50 ophthalmologists to collect and label 150,000 fundus images as training data for robust AI models. As a result, Point-of-Care AI-DR outperforms existing products in terms of sensitivity (>98%) and specificity (>96%) in DR diagnosis. Moreover, the outcome allows non-ophthalmologists to perform rapid point-of-care DR screening in the same way that ophthalmologists do. It can support all existing fundus cameras worldwide and be used to build various solutions, such as edge AI systems, standalone web applications, and private/public cloud-based services.
The detection provided is in multiple areas such as locating lesions (microaneurysms, haemorrhages, soft exudates, and hard exudates), detecting anatomical landmarks of the optic disc and macular area, classifying the severity levels of diabetic retinopathy (from none to severe) and producing binary classifications to assist general practitioners in providing ophthalmologists with data-informed decisions.
Licensing is available for Point-of-Care AI-DR.
Laser light is used in the relatively new imaging technology known as photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) to cause ultrasonic vibrations in tissue. Like how ultrasound imaging functions, an image of the tissue’s architecture can then be produced using these ultrasonic vibrations and a computer that processes them.
Lihong Wang, the Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Caltech, has created PAM technologies recently that can visualise changing blood flow in the brain, identify specific cancer cells, and detect diseased tissue.
However, a drawback of PAM’s high resolution has been its shallow depth of field, which prevents it from focusing on more than one layer of tissue at once. This layer can only be as thin as one skin cell, or around 30 micrometres, with a resolution of one to two micrometres.
The device must refocus above or below the plane it is now observing to perceive objects above or below it. Consider someone donning reading glasses to do a crossword puzzle as a point of comparison.
The needle-shaped beam photoacoustic microscopy, or NB-PAM, that Wang and his research team created has a depth of field that is roughly 14 times larger than what was previously possible. As a result, NB-PAM can better photograph samples with uneven surfaces and produce 3-D pictures of samples without having to refocus.
According to Rui Cao, lead author and postdoctoral scholar research associate in medical engineering, certain applications, such as analysing tissue samples without requiring a microscope slide, need imaging of uneven surfaces at high spatial resolution. Hence, the new technology has addressed the trade-off between resolution and depth of field.
By adopting a longer, thinner, and more “needle-shaped” laser light beam than other PAM technologies, NB-PAM enhances the depth of field. By altering the optical properties of the beam, it is possible to avoid some of the problems that come with previous attempts to enhance the depth of field of PAM technology, such as slower operation or increased computing power needs.
A diffractive optical element (DOE) is a specialised tool used to produce this needle-shaped beam. A DOE appears to be a thin sheet of glass to the untrained eye, but it is a piece of fused silica with precise patterns carved on it.
These patterns alter the form of the imaging beam of light, causing it to be dragged out into a long, thin neck rather than focusing on a sharp point along the propagation axis. As a result, it can image objects more clearly at a wider range of depths.
The researchers used two different imaging techniques to show this increased depth of field, including imaging in vivo mouse brain vasculature with a blue laser and imaging fresh organ samples with an ultraviolet laser.
According to Wang, this approach opens new possibilities for examining tissue samples during surgery, allowing total eradication of malignant cells and maximum preservation of normal ones. Translation into the operation room is a logical area for investigation in the future.
Meanwhile, the only core facility on the Caltech campus that offers light microscopy facilities is the Biological Imaging Facility or BIF (formerly known as the Biological Imaging Centre, BIC).
The BIF offers software tools for processing and interpreting image data in addition to microscopes. Two computer workstations at the BIF are equipped with Bitplane’s Imaris 3D/4D image processing and visualisation software.
A third computer workstation is running the Linux version of Scientific Volume Imaging B.V.’s (SVI) Huygens software, a strong image deconvolution application.