Deep Space: Human Bodies - The Universe Within

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Human Bodies: The Universe Within is an application especially developed by the Ars Electronica Futurelab to exploit the full potential of this virtual three-dimensional space and make exploration of the human body an impressive experience. Organs, muscles, bones, the cardiovascular system and the body’s network of nerves—layer by layer, extraordinarily detailed and breathtakingly beautiful 3D visualizations deliver ultra-close-up views inside the human body.

The vastly improved resolution offered by Deep Space 8K makes it possible to simultaneously augment the three-dimensional models on screen with other media elements such as detailed graphics, high-resolution videos and additional information. The Infotrainers who moderate the live presentations in Deep Space 8K have an extensive selection of material at their disposal to comply with audience’s requests and go into detail when it’s called for. Now, only a few months after the founding of the University of Linz’s School of Medicine, Human Bodies: The Universe Within provides an extraordinary platform to get medical education away from the conventional anatomy atlas in book form and shift it in the direction of three-dimensional learning and visual understanding of the interrelationships in the human body. And that applies just as much to future physicians as it does to interested members of the general public—from little kids to seniors.

Universum Mensch

Collaboration with Renowned Institutions

The Ars Electronica Futurelab has woven several narrative strands into the program. They elaborate on the workings of the human body’s various systems, and use facts, images and narratives to facilitate understanding how these processes work. The point of departure of Human Bodies: The Universe Within is a corpus of 3D data provided by Zygote Media Group Inc., a company that specializes in anatomically exacting three-dimensional representations of the human body.

We also worked together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing (MEVIS) to get a detailed and comprehensive look at the heart. New procedures such as magnetic resonance imaging make it possible to investigate how blood flows through the heart’s chambers. They can measure the pressure distribution in the heart without performing an invasive procedure with the catheter.

Taking a look into the human body has until now produced only unreal representations of skeleton, organs or blood vessels. Even 3-D-pictures from CT or MRT are lacking of contrast and sufficient depth. Thus, really interesting facts for surgeons, such as the distance between veins and chords, have been in hiding. By developing the process of “Cinematic Rendering”, Siemens Health Care is opening a new chapter in the realistic representation of the living example. Inspired by films like “Lord of the Rings”, the researchers managed to transfer the animation-performance from the world of cinema to the realms of medicine. Raw data from CT- and MRT-examinations is the basis for modelling the showpiece. Only the so-called “image-based lighting calculation” yields a realistic representation of living bodies. Before that revolutionary technique will have become the standard in diagnosis, it has to undergo several tests. Until then, it fits perfectly well into the virtual anatomy lecture theatre of the future.


A close-up examination of the immune system shows that not only oxygen but also dust, pollen, bacteria and viruses enter the human body through the respiratory tract. What actually happens when someone gets sick? Another focal-point topic in The Universe Within is the brain and the five senses, with particular emphasis on sight and hearing. For example, an interactive virtual ear originally developed by Ars Electronica Solutions for the MED-EL medical technology company’s Audioversum exhibit shows how sound travels from the auditory canal to the brain. The human body’s locomotion apparatus, its system of muscles and bones, is also part of the presentation in Deep Space 8K—after all, we’re programmed to get up and go! And last but not least, The Universe Within takes an intimate look at one of humankind’s greatest triumphs: our reproductive prowess.