SPIE BiOS Overview
January 22, 2012, SPIE BiOS Conference, San Francisco—The BiOS conference had number of sessions that highlighted technologies that may be transferable to areas outside of formal medicine.
Most of the sessions were about specific applications of optical and photonic in formal medicine and biological research. Topics included photonic therapeutics and diagnostics; clinical technologies and systems; tissue optics, laser-tissue interaction, and tissue engineering; biomedical spectroscopy, microscopy, and imaging; nano/biophotonics. Most of the sessions and their audiences reflect the deep science and technology focus implied by the session titles.
As more technologies move into the biological sciences areas, researchers are seeing greater needs for integrating electronics and light emitters and sensors to improve their measurement capabilities. Advances in all of these areas eventually lead to the delivery of advanced healthcare solutions to a greater range of people.
The ability to address broader spectra of emissions leads to easier integration into consumer-grade products, which enables broad distribution and adoption of these technologies. The spillover into consumer-grade products leads to greatly reduced costs of equipment and encourages wider use. For example, a medical-grade balance tester costs tens of thousands of dollars. A Wii Fit does the same job for under $500, if you already have the TV set.
Even though the various sessions focused on the heavy lifting science and had titles and abstracts to match, some sessions were accessible to an average person without a PhD. One session described a retinal scanner that uses a commercial camera plus some extra optics to achieve a cost of under $1,500. The medical-grade version costs over $25,000. Another session described the use of flexible gratings to modulate a light beam in an optical fiber to detect respiration and heart beats in infants without any electrical contact.
The big science projects are necessary to advance knowledge, but even the researchers can benefit from more agile and lower cost equipment. The combination of computers and communications with optical components will change some of the approaches to biological investigations.