The Tanaka Laboratory is working to develop systems based on image processing technology. The aim is to detect even minute differences in images, and apply this ability in a wide range of fields.
Q. "What were focusing on most right now is a system for diagnosing diseases such as cancer. Cancer cells and human tissue sometimes differ very slightly in shape. Those tiny differences may indicate benign or malignant tumors, but cancer cells and human tissue are mostly similar. We look at images and say, This has the same shape, so its probably benign, or, This is slightly different, so its probably cancer. Its very difficult to get a computer to distinguish differences in this way. Computers are considered to be bad at this, so we want to distinguish the minute differences. "
Currently in healthcare, the number of patients is increasing year by year, and the shortage of physicians is becoming serious. A shortage of doctors leads to a decline in services for patients. Computer image processing systems are receiving attention because they could help to solve this problem.
Q. "Not all patients have a serious condition. Naturally, some have a very minor illness, or one that doesnt need any treatment. If we had a diagnostic system with fairly high precision, patients who didnt need any treatment could be informed of that, so diagnosis would become very speedy. Attention could be focused on patients with a serious condition, or those who are difficult to diagnose. So diagnosis would be more thorough. Its said that theres a shortage of physicians, and we think this system would not only solve that problem, but also have advantages for patients.
Image processing that can detect minute differences is expected to be useful in other fields as well as healthcare. The Tanaka Lab is broadening the scope of its activities to include anti-aging research and the construction of personal ID systems. In anti-aging research, the Lab has built a diagnostic system that uses 3D reconstruction of faces, and is developing a system that can measure facial sagging. This will enable numerical evaluation of results that could previously only be assessed by human senses. This may be a great help in developing nutrient creams and supplements.
Regarding personal ID systems, the aim is to further increase the precision of biometric ID, which is currently considered the most reliable system. The Lab has succeeded in developing an ID system based on computed holograms to prevent falsification.
All this research involves things that can be done by people, if enough time is taken. But in situations that require faster, more efficient judgment, in the future, such systems are likely to play a more central role in society. The Tanaka Lab proactively pursues joint research and discussions with businesses, to develop image processing systems that can be utilized in society.
Q. "We tackle very difficult problems, so when we find a solution, or when it looks as if we can find a solution, were really happy. And as an educator, Im very pleased when a student discovers something like that. When students come up with really good ideas in the midst of our discussions, I feel extremely happy."
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