Google is working on a similar project called Google Body, which is part of Google Labs. Unlike BodyMaps, it requires a Web 3-D standard called WebGL and can only be used in a Chrome browser. Google Body also lacks the level of detail both in its imagery and information that is available in BodyMaps.
BodyMaps was built using Healthline’s taxonomy, a database of health and medical information the company spent 10 years building. It relates the different attributes and facets of a disease or condition to relevant symptoms and treatments, types of doctors, and even insurance billing codes. When a user conducts a search, all the relevant information is displayed. To create the 3-D graphics, Healthline and GE Healthyimagination used over 25 medical illustrators to first make the drawings. They then partnered with Visible Productions to do the 3-D modeling and applied the existing taxonomy and search and navigation technology to the models.
Shell says the most viewed information on Healthline.com is visual data such as images, videos, and animations. “We are enhancing the visual learning experience by making the 3-D body the platform for navigation,” he says.
The next phase of development for the new 3-D tool is to make it available on mobile devices and tablets. To do so, Healthline is building the application in HTML 5, a programming language that is supported by most devices. Shell expects BodyMaps to be on mobile platforms in the next six months to a year.
The system, while the first of its kind, still needs some work. Some queries, like “large intestine,” produce no results, and certain “read more” sections, such as in the knee region, do not have any additional information. Also, choosing to “read more” about the muscle “biceps brachii,” displayed in the shoulder region, makes the user go back to the arm section.
The company expects to introduce additional capabilities by June that will let users explore in 3-D graphics the progression of a disease, how a drug works in the body, a medical procedure, or even an injury. At least 20 different scenarios will be launched initially, and new ones will continue to be released. Further planned improvements will let users upload his or her medical imagery into the system and compare it with the information in BodyMaps.
Shell says Healthline is conducting a pilot study with GE, integrating the imagery from the company’s electronic medical record system with BodyMaps. This application will not be available to users “for a while,” but should be implemented widely across GE for testing later this year, he says.