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Thursday - April 01, 2004

A slick web site can make any company look more than it is, and it is far easier to promise future products on a web site than it is to actually deliver functioning products, particularly in virtual microscopy.  At first glance, it would seem an easy task to digitize a 1" by 3" piece of glass with the resolution of a microscope, and deliver that media in a practical fashion to the average personal computer, but in fact it is a daunting task.  I can name at least three companies in the United States alone, that have claimed to be virtual microscopy companies for at least a year or more.

They all have the same thing in common, a slick web site, strong claims that their scanning will be the fastest, computer generated pictures of the scanner, and no virtual slides online for demonstration or evaluation. 

If you can't put a real picture of your scanning equipment online it's only a prototype, perhaps one or two exist, and it's obviously far from being manufactured.  If you can't put a generous amount of slides online by now, in an organized fashion where a large group of users may be simultaneously looking at a variety of different slides, your server and viewing software technology is already years behind.  And until all the previously mentioned products are solid and in daily use with a variety of different customers, you won't have any foundation let alone understanding of doing distributed digital image analysis applications with virtual slides.

These may seem like strong statements, especially if you just recently learned about virtual microscopy, but I have been in the virtual microscopy business for a decade now, and I have seen the progress of development in my company as well as my real competitors over that time. 

I should mention that I can also name at least three companies in the United States that do deliver virtual microscopy products.  And I certainly know one company that does show pictures of actual scanners and demonstrate them, that can scan slides for you today, and that has hundreds of virtual slides online that you can evaluate from your computer right now, just a click a way from my blog. A company that has considered scanning, serving and viewing virtual slides as a common daily practice for years, not as something that is new.  A company that has the industry leading viewing software which is free to download and use immediately, and does not lean on 3rd party viewing software which is not designed for virtual microscopy.  A company that has virtual slides that can be scanned as a stack and focused like an actual microscope. A company that is already delivering several distributed image analysis applications that utilize virtual slide technology, allowing people to quantitate specimen on microscope slides in ways that were never possible before.   Bacus Laboratories, Inc., pioneered virtual microscopy and happens to be one of those companies that does deliver virtual microscopy products.

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