Google, US Department Of Defense Join Hands To Build AI Microscope To Detect Cancer


Google and the US Department of Defense (DoD) have joined hands for building an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered microscope to help doctors detect cancer, the media has reported. The AR microscope (ARM) for healthcare systems is likely to be priced between $90,000 to $100,000. According to a report by CNBC, the ARM has shown promise and is likely to become a useful tool for pathologists who do not have easy access to a second opinion. The partnership intends to provide support to doctors in smaller labs who are dealing with a shortage of staffers and witnessing a growing number of cases.

However, the ARM is supposed to serve as a second line of defence for pathologists and would not be able not replace the doctors themselves, as per Dr. Niels Olson, the Chief Medical Officer of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) at the Department of Defense, the report noted. 

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The ARM looks a lot like a regular and features a large eyepiece and a tray for examining traditional glass slides and is also connected to a boxy computer tower that houses the AI models. When a glass slide is prepared and fixed under the microscope, the AI is able to outline where cancer is located. The outline appears as a bright green line that pathologists can see through their eyepiece and on a separate monitor. The AI also indicates how aggressive the cancer is, and generates a black-and-white heat map on the monitor that shows the boundary of the cancer in a pixelated form, the CNBC report noted.

According to Aashima Gupta, Global Director of Healthcare Strategy and Solutions at Google Cloud, the company has launched four algorithms for the ARM which can identify breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer and mitosis. The AI models are trained on data from the DIU and Gupta said neither Google employees nor the company infrastructure have access to it.

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The DIU is hoping to make the ARM available to all government users through the General Services Administration website sometime this fall.  

Dr. Olson added that the obvious initial use case for the microscope would be in smaller, remote labs, and it could also serve as a resource for pathology residents in training.

Out of the 13 ARMs in existence, one is located at a Mitre facility outside of Washington, DC. Mitre is a non-profit organisation that works with government firms to tackle big problems involving technology. The publication ran a demo of the ARM with the Mitre facility earlier in August.


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