Software Developer @
It's a pleasure to introduce you to Henry Prescott, software developer at Glassworks. He's been working on the HeartWorks project for almost 4 years. He discloses us a little bit about the complex process on how to make an anatomically accurate 3D model of the heart.
Sciencemotionology: What is your background?
Henry: I studied Computing Science : Games & Virtual Environments BSc at Newcastle University and went on to do an MSc in Computing Science : Games Engineering there also; my courses focused on the technical aspects of games development, such as games engine creation, OpenGL, shaders and concentrated mainly on programming and maths, rather than game design or content creation.
Sciencemotionology: What is your role in the HeartWorks project? And how long have you been working on it?
Henry: I’m a software developer and I’ve been working on HeartWorks for almost 4 years now.
Sciencemotionology: Considering the major language differences between the arts and medical worlds, what was your major challenge with this project?
Henry: Our consultants are used to training and teaching doctors, so actually they are very good at explaining things and getting their point across.
One of our major challenges is having to constantly push HeartWorks to the limit; adding new functionality every few months involves a lot of work, not just programming but animating, modelling, texturing, collecting references, tweaking everything so that it looks realistic and performs as intended.
Sciencemotionology: Could you briefly describe the work process needed to create the HW project, from conception to the finished product?
Henry: Glassworks was initially approached by a group of doctors that specialise in teaching and training doctors in the use of Transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE). TOE uses a specialised probe, passed down the patient's esophagus to generate an ultrasound image of the heart.
At the time there were no good ways of visualising the probe’s movement in relation to the heart and the only way to learn was to get hands-on time in theatre with patients under general anaesthetic.
Glassworks having a bevy of talented 3D artists used to bringing complex objects and characters to life set to work; a latex mould of a real heart was made, laser scanned, brought into Softimage and animated.
Once the heart was generated, a lot of software development work went into producing accurate Ultrasound simulation of the model, whilst being able to pick out pieces of the complex anatomy within the heart. A mannequin with 3D tracking was added, making HeartWorks not just an anatomy guide but and interactive teaching device.
The original release was considered to be a normally functioning heart, since then HeartWorks has added a further 16 pathologies and the ability to measure the anatomy as well and Colour Doppler, allowing the measurement of blood flow through the heart. HeartWorks is continuing to add new functionality and pathologies each year.
Sciencemotionology: How is it to work within a multidisciplinary team of creative and medical staff?
Henry: HeartWorks is a small team of developers, so we have to take on lots of different roles; whether it’s writing something in C++, or a script in python to help our artists export something out of Softimage, taking feedback from the doctors and translating it into tasks that need to be performed or creating shaders in GLSL. It’s challenging, but a lot of fun!