Microscopes outfitted with AI-driven augmented reality could improve the accuracy of cancer diagnoses.

What’s happened: Google Health developed an attachment for analog microscopes that outlines signs of breast and prostate cancer in real time.

How it works: A computer-vision system spots cancer in a cell slide, while augmented-reality tech superimposes the AI’s prediction over the slide at around 27 frames per second.

  • The developers combined the Inception V3 image classifier with a fully convolutional neural network, which allowed the system to recognize tumorous patterns much faster.
  • A camera captures a head-on view of the slide and projects it, overlaid with the AI prediction, into the microscope eyepiece.

Behind the news: Pathologists use microscopes to measure tumor size relative to nearby lymph nodes and to count the number of cells nearing or undergoing mitosis. That information tells them how aggressively a patient’s cancer is spreading.

Why it matters: Interpreting cell slides is subjective, and one pathologist’s understanding can differ greatly from another’s. Patients in locations where trained pathologists are scarce tend to suffer most from this inconsistency. AI-enhanced tools could help make diagnoses more reliable.

We’re thinking: AI is a natural complement to digital microscopes, but analog microscopes are far more common. This technology promises to upgrade those tools at a fraction of the cost of replacing them.


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