Here's a serious question for parents-to-be: Do you find yourselves becoming increasingly frustrated that you don't really know the baby growing inside you or your partner until it's born? You aren't able to experience your baby with sight or touch until it finds its way out of the womb—isn't this slightly creepy? Well, one father-to-be just couldn't take it anymore and developed a way to virtually meet his baby before it popped out into the real world.
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One regular afternoon, Samuli Cantell casually thought about how cool it would be to use 4D ultrasound to scan his unborn baby and turn it into a VR experience.
He then came up with the idea to use 4D ultrasound images and data to create a 3D print of his baby. The print was used to create a full VR experience that allowed VR goggle wearers to "see" the baby floating in space, hotdog-like umbilical cord and all. How he convinced his girlfriend to let this happen, I don't know. Somehow he did, and from the looks of the pictures, all parties involved seem pretty excited about it.
After receiving advice from Aava Medical Centre and GE (they manufacture 3D and 4D ultrasound systems), Cantell came up with this process:
"We went to the Aava Medical Centre for the 4D ultrasound scan. At this time, our baby was already a bit too big for perfect scans, but after an hour we got enough material. From the data I imported DICOM files to osiriX lite and made the frst 3D model. It turned out pretty messy, but with a little help from a friend, we sculpted a nice 3D model. The 3D model of the baby was then placed in a Unity project, and the experience was ready."
For a first go around, the results looks pretty solid:
Enter a caption (optional) The final VR experience
Here Cantell describes how he felt when staring at his baby floating in space:
When I put the VR glasses on for the first time, the experience took my breath away. Even though I knew this was only a 3D model, the fact that it was based on our unborn child and the power of this immersive experience really blew my mind. For the first ten minutes, I was just sitting still on the floor watching her floating in the air next to me. It was very emotional and calming, yet unreal.
So close you can almost touch it! Even Grandma got to take a look!
Cantell's takeaways from this process are as followed: "It's as awesome as it is weird, music plays a huge role in this kind of emotional experience, a lot of manual 3D sculpting is still needed, and the scanning should take place before pregnancy week 32." Out of everything on this list, what I want to know most is what songs were on the VR Baby Experience playlist.
All of this sounds creepy, but keep in mind that a lot of parents-to-be have anxiety about parenting and meeting their babies—this could serve as a form of therapy to help calm those nerves. It's also a potential way for fathers to feel more connected to their babies before birth. Perhaps a way to calm fathers down on Maury or Jerry Springer when they learn they are, in fact, the father?
I'm curious to hear what people who've actually gone through the pregnancy process have to say about this. I particularly want to know if you would show your child's VR baby experience to them during sappy milestones—like their graduation or wedding —in place of baby photos.
My only kids are two plants and a fish, so I have no answers.