TouchPad gets shot at new life with MRI treatment

The HP TouchPad tablet may have been declared dead by HP itself recently, but it seems resurrection is possible. And that's thanks to--of all things--changes in MRI technology.

What's the connection? Well, MRI technology is morphing to deliver an actual treatment known as "MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound." Under the treatment, patients receive high-intensity ultrasound therapy under MR thermometry guidance.

But the new therapy requires precise--computerized--control of the MRI device itself, and close-contact monitoring of the patient and procedure at times, according to iMedicalApps. That means having a computer or mobile device in the MRI room itself. However, most tablets, smartphones and other mobile computers have far too many metal components to be allowed into the magnetized chamber.

Enter Stanford University radiology department researcher Andrew Holbrook. He thought he could strip enough metal out of the TouchPad's housing to allow it inside the chamber while MRIs were being performed. This capability is crucial for the MRI-guided ultrasounds, because precise control is needed during the procedure, according to iMedicalApps.

With a little help from HP, Holbrook revamped a tablet with virtually no metal parts, loaded it with apps for manipulating and adjusting the MRI and integrated it into the MRI system, Engadget reports. The apps allow technicians to be in the room or out, but still control the procedure. Holbrook tells Engadget that he's working on a version of the app for webOS smartphones, as well.

What makes this story even more interesting is HPs' recent decision to switch webOS to open-source development. That could mean a serious influx of developers anxious to leverage the new low-metal tablet in other departments of the hospital. We'll be watching to see whether developers jump on the new hardware configuration for other healthcare treatments.

To learn more:
- read the iMedicalApps story
- check out Engadget's coverage
- read through this description of the MRI/touchpad technology
- dig into Mashable's discussion of HP's move to open source for webOS