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Mary Lou Jepsen says Openwater will disrupt MRIs



Mary Lou Jepsen, CEO and founder of Openwater, explains her company's new medical imaging technology at Business Insider's IGNITION conference on Monday, December 3, 2018.
Openwater CEO Mary Lou Jepsen said her company’s
imaging technology has numerous potential

Jin S.

  • At Business Insider’s IGNITION
    conference on Monday, Mary Lou Jepsen, a former executive at
    Facebook and Google, discussed the technology being developed by
    her new company.
  • Openwater
    is working on a new kind of imaging technology that relies on
    ultrasound and infrared light. 
  • The resolution of its system is better than that of MRI
    machines, Jepsen said.
  • The technology could be used to do everything from detecting
    cancers early to reading people’s minds, she said.

Mary Lou Jepsen has some bold predictions about the impact the
technology being developed by her new company, Openwater, will
eventually have.

Openwater’s new imaging system will upend the medical industry,
allowing doctors to detect cancers sooner and monitor them more
effectively, she says. It will give access to MRI-quality scans
to millions of people around the world who can’t afford them now.
It will allow new types of medical procedures that will obviate
the need for surgery to treat certain conditions.

It will also allow doctors to more effectively and precisely
treat brain diseases such as schizophrenia and depression. And it
might even allow people to essentially read each other’s

“The things we can do with it are pretty profound,” Jepsen said
at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference on Monday.

Jepsen has a long history in the technology industry, mostly
working on display and camera technologies. She was part of
Facebook’s Oculus team; worked on virtual-reality technology for
Google; developed the low-powered, sunlight-readable screen in
used in the low-cost computer created by One Laptop Per Child;
and helped created a holographic video system while a professor
at MIT.

Jepsen founded Openwater in 2016. The idea behind the company was
to build on the advances the consumer electronics industry has
made in recent decades in chips, cameras, and sensors
to create an imaging system comparable to MRI machines but in a
more portable form and at a fraction of the cost

Read this:

A superstar ex-Facebook and Google exec is trying to upend a
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Openwater’s system could be cheaper and smaller than MRI machines

The system the company has developed takes advantage of the
ability for infrared light and ultrasonic pulses to penetrate
human bodies. It is able to combine the two signals to create a
hologram that can then be analyzed by its systems to detect
various structures, Jepsen said.

The system already shows the potential of duplicating the
resolutions capable by MRI machines and even bettering them, she
said. That kind of imaging ability could allow the system to be
used to detect blood flow in the brain and tumors and even,
potentially, individual neurons. Being able to zero in that close
could allow doctors to precisely tell whether the drugs they are
administering are effectively treating patients with brain
diseases, she said. 

But it also could allow a kind of telepathy, Jepsen said. She
cited research that’s been using a kind of MRI machine that
scanned study participants’ brains as they were looking at
particular kinds of images. Based on that data, computers then
attempted to guess what images the participants were looking from
just their MRI scans, and were able to do so relatively
accurately. Because it has a higher resolution than MRI,
Openwater’s technology could potentially read users’ minds even
more accurately, allowing them to transmit their thoughts and
feelings electronically, without saying a word, she

“The bet is … we’re going to get to a lot better resolution
soon,” she said.

Because the system relies on the kinds of camera, laser,
ultrasonic, and logic chips that are mass produced by processor
makers, it has the potential to be much cheaper and smaller than
existing imaging systems, she said. MRI machines, for example,
can cost millions of dollars and rely on huge and heavy magnets.
Openwater’s system could potentially be worn by patients on a
regular basis or used in developing countries that can’t afford
MRIs or other high-tech imaging systems, she said.

“We can make healthcare better and cheaper,” she said. “That’s
what we’re trying to do.” 

Openwater is one of several companies trying to disrupt the
medical imaging industry with lower-cost technology. Another is

, which has an imaging system that relies on microwaves
that is already being tested for use with detecting breast

Jepsen’s company has yet to demonstrate its system for the
public. It also hasn’t yet sought approval from the Food and Drug
Association for it to be used on humans, Jepsen noted. 

But, she noted, it relies on infrared light and ultrasound, both
of which have long been used safely with humans. And the company
has already started animal trials. 

“I think this is inevitable,” she said. “It’s going happen.”

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