USB-based ultrasound probes have been around since 2005, offering a much cheaper and more portable alternative to larger ultrasound machines. Probes provide increasingly high-quality imaging for a tenth of the cost. A typical, portable ultrasound device costs around $20,000, while USB probes sell for around $2,000 right now - and the price is declining. Probes are ideally suited for first-responders and for primary care in developing countries, for example.
The small probes are connected to a phone with a USB cord that have been, typically, connected to a laptop for displaying the images. But carrying around laptops for transmitting images is not an option in many clinics in developing countries for lack of consistent electricity, heat, and lack of Internet access.
Mobile phones, on the other hand, are ubiquitous, easy to use, and they have the mobile network built in to transmit and retrieve images. William Richard, Associate Professor, and David Zar Research Associate, both at Washington University in St. Louis have now developed the first, fully integrated USB ultrasound probe.
As Zar notes, all of the electronics are in the probe itself; all that is needed is the actual probe, a USB cable, and the imaging platform connected with a USB cord -- such as Windows mobile phone. Working under a Microsoft Research grant, the researchers modified probes to work with a smart phone and developed a software development kit (SDK) to allow developers to build fully-custom applications for various mobile platforms.
Video after the break.