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Multilayer Images for Interactive 3D Visualization
on the World Wide Web

Christopher Umans1 Michael Halle2 Ron Kikinis2

1 Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley, 592 Soda Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720 email: Supported in part by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
2 Surgical Planning Laboratory, MRI Division, Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115 email:,


Web-based interactive 3D visualization of large and complex scientific datasets is impractical for the average user, due to high transmission costs and the need for 3D graphics hardware to achieve reasonable rendering speed and quality. Image-based rendering techniques have lessened this problem, typically allowing limited navigation of 3D worlds on desktop PC's, with lower transmission costs. However several types of interaction that are highly desirable in medical, CAD and other applications are impossible in these systems, including turning structures on and off, and adjusting their transparency and color. We describe a simple image-based technique utilizing multilayer images that trades navigational capabilities for these types of interaction, imposes low transmission costs, and can be implemented on an average PC. The usefulness of this technique is demonstrated in a Java-based "Anatomy Browser" that allows students and doctors to interactively explore 3D anatomical reconstructions from real surgical cases on the World Wide Web.

Chris Umans
Sun Sep 7 15:06:59 PDT 1997