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A Hacker Made This Augmented Reality Ultrasound With 80s Tech

Victor Skobov upgraded a piece of e-waste that was rescued from a dumpster.
January 29, 2016, 3:00pm

It's not everyday you find a chunky ultrasound machine from the 1980s in a dumpster. But that's what someone at Shackspace hackerspace in Germany uncovered.

The machine was destined to be thrown out for a second time when Victor Skobov, a business psychology student and avid developer, spotted the unwanted piece of e-waste.

"Once I visited a [VR] community meetup in Stuttgart and I saw this old dusty ultrasound device from 1982," Skobov wrote in an email. "I asked the host of the hackerspace if they needed it, and they said that they wanted to put it in the trash.

So Skobov brought the chunky contraption home for free, minus one small scratch in his new car. "They gave it to me as a gift," he said.

Skobov, who founded Virtualway—a virtual reality research platform—has developed his interest in virtual reality both on his own and during an internship at the Center for Virtual Engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, where he worked intensively with Unity Engine—a video game development engine—learning how to attach an AR appendage to Unity with an AR software development kit called Vuforia. The experience formed the bedrock for building an ultrasound AR in real time.

"I thought that it wouldn't be that hard [to make an AR ultrasound], that there wouldn't be much coding involved," said Skobov, who converted the video signal from the ultrasound machine in Unity Engine, before projecting that image in augmented reality from the physical machine's prode.

Skobov envisions that this kind of contraption, if taken up commercially, could be used by medical staff as an enhanced monitoring system. "Maybe it could be some kind of patch that could always be on the patient, and doctors could take a look at it to know what is going on," he said.