In the framework of the 9th edition of the ImagéSanté festival, an operation of neurosurgery was captured and retransmitted live and in 3D stereo (and in full HD). This technological feat took place on 18 March 2010 in Liège, Belgium.
This event is a European first and, if one takes into account the particular technology used for the coding and transmission of the images, a World's first.
The surgical operation was carried out at the University Hospital ("Centre Hospitalier Universitaire or CHU") of Liège and was watched by a mesmerized public in the movie theater Sauvenière, in downtown Liège, 16 km (10 miles) away from the hospital. The numerous spectators, in an overcrowded theater, were able to interact live with the neurosurgeon throughout the operation thanks to an audio duplex system linking the two sites. The surgeon was Prof. Didier Martin, also the President of the Belgian Society of Neurosurgery.
A lady spectator interviewed by the National Belgian Radio and Television indicated upon exiting the theater that "she thought this was better than Avatar" ... the ultimate compliment of course!
This success is the fruit of a close collaboration between a dynamic set of 16 companies and a university, mainly from Wallonia (the french-speaking part of Belgium outside Brussels) and members of TWIST, the walloon network for audiovisual and multimedia technologies.
Professor Jacques G. Verly and his team from the Laboratory for Signal and Image Exploitation (INTELSIG) of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Institut Montefiore) of the University of Liège (ULg) designed the architecture of the entire chain of capture, transmission, and projection, and provided the technical management of this 3D event.
Capturing, recording, and/or visualizing a surgical operation in 3D stereo locally are not, by themselves, new things. By contrast, capturing a surgical operation in 3D stereo and retransmitting it live over a long distance is something that is much less common. As such, the 3D retransmission event described above constitutes a European first.
It is also certain that the event constitutes a world's first on the basis of the type of technology used, in particular the electronic boards PRISTINE from IntoPIX (implementing the JPEG 2000 standard), one of which was acquired by the ULg.
These cards and the computers conceived at the University of Liege allowed one to perform the transmission by maintaining the left and right stereoscopic streams separated, and by compressing them simultaneously for a total transmission rate of 500 Mbit/s, i.e. 500,000,000 bits per second. This corresponds to half of the capacity of each optical fiber used. It is useful to indicate that, for example, the rate at the input of the encoding board, thus before compression, is on the order of 2.6 Gbit/s. One should note that the conventional strategy for this type of live 3D transmission is to mix the two streams (while reducing their resolution) to allow the use of traditional transmission channels, which was not the case here.