Implementation of 3D Microscopy Technology for the Robotic Applications
Published on : Saturday 05-09-2020
Traditionally the microscope slide has been flat, not quite two dimensional, but certainly only a snapshot of a sliver of material. However, the world presents itself in three dimensions and the ability to look at whole objects rather than just a slice has become increasingly important. The application of 3D microscopy is booming, largely as a result of a corresponding increase in computational power.
The term 3D microscopy covers a range of imaging technologies such as ultrasound tomography, micro-computed tomography (CT), micro-positron emission tomography (PET), photoacoustic imaging, and others that were large volume low-resolution solutions compared to the availability of high resolution but only 2D solutions.
Not surprisingly these technologies are most useful in a variety of medical and surgical diagnostic specialties. Some can be employed in live surgery while others are more useful in a laboratory setting.
Application for 3D Robotic Microscopy
While most 3D robotic microscopy is used in the medical field, 3D robotic microscopes are being used in a very different setting in order to monitor the health of the world’s oceans. Planktons are the natural indicators of changes in the health of water bodies and play a major contribution in controlling the quality of air and water on earth. They are also the start of the ocean food chain.
Worryingly, we know that plankton populations have fallen by over 40% since 1950 according to research published in the journal Nature in 2010, possibly due to a rise in global temperatures. However, studying them remains a challenge since it requires the collection of the required quantity of plankton samples and shipping to a laboratory without damage post-mortem.
IBM’s solution to this problem is to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) controlled swimming robotic microscopes networked via the cloud to track and monitor plankton behavior in their natural environment. The microscopes rely on an imager chip that captures the shadow of the plankton as it swims over the chip, “generating a digital sample of its health, without the need for focusing,” IBM said.
In addition, high-performance, low-powered AI technology could analyze and interpret the data locally, “reporting any abnormalities in real-time so they could be acted upon immediately.” It isn’t a surprise that microscopy is being transformed by the application of 3D and AI.
As the technology matures in both resolution and the algorithms associated with image interpretation it will become an increasingly powerful tool not only in the field of medical and biological science but also in monitoring the health of the planet on a nanoscale.