Video Scout: For surgeons or James Bond?

BC Tech releases a "medical camera with eyes" that's just 3 millimeters in diameter, features four LEDs, and has 400x400 resolution CCD streaming at 30 frames per second.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read
Video Scout features four LEDs and 400x400 resolution CCD streaming at 30 frames per second. BC Tech

We've come a long way, baby.

Back when the first endoscope was developed in 1806 to probe "the canals and cavities of the human body," the Vienna Medical Society ruled it to be something of an inappropriate technology, and improvements on such devices were slow-going for decades.

Today the field of endoscopy has splintered out into dozens of areas, playing key roles in procedures that involve almost every part of the human body, from colonoscopies (colon) to rhinoscopies (nose), colposcopies (cervix) to bronchoscopies (airways). The tiny cameras used in these procedures make David Pogue's column look like a review of ancient relics.

The Video Scout is just 3 millimeters in diameter. BC Tech

At just 3 millimeters in diameter, BC Tech's Video Scout is one of the smallest medical cameras in the world, according to the company's VP of business development, Charlie Skinner:

Medical companies can integrate the Video Scout into biopsy tools, ablation wands, catheters, tissue cutters, scopes and more. We're confident this sort of low cost imaging technology will usher in a new wave of disposable medical products with built in video cameras.

The high cost of health care has led to a big push for more affordable surgical devices. Video Scout has great potential to be a low-cost, single-use alternative to more expensive industry standards. CEO Ben Clawson takes the upside even further:

Millions of people in poor countries die because health care workers lack the equipment to properly diagnose common diseases. Procedures that are routine for Americans, like colonoscopies, are simply too expensive in many parts of the world. The Video Scout enables creation of low cost diagnostic tools that developing countries can actually afford.

Spokesman Cassidy Clawson tells me that while he can't give a price point on the Video Scout, the cost "makes it viable for disposable medical products." And while BC Tech is currently working on customized applications alone, the company plans to take the modules to a commercial market at some point in 2010, at which point a price tag will clarify the true meaning of "viable."