To the average non-veterinarian, a CT scanner for horses may seem kind of silly—but the average non-veterinarian has never tried to get a horse into a traditional CT scanner. It’s a laborious, stressful process for everyone involved, especially the horse. In the future, it might not be necessary, thanks to a new immersive imaging system.

Rather than pushing a passed-out horse into a tube, Equimagine technology surrounds a standing, conscious horse with mobile robotic cameras. This does away with the need for anesthetizing the horse, which can be risky. Imaging an upright horse also provides more useful perspective, since they spend most of their lives standing up.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is the first site to test one of the new scanners. “The reason this is so revolutionary is that the robots can easily move around the horse in any orientation,” medical director Barbara Dallap Schaer said in a press statement. “We can do the imaging in a patient that is standing and awake. From a clinical standpoint, we will see elements of the horse’s anatomy that we’ve never seen before.”

According to Dean Richardson, chief of large animal surgery at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, the veterinary school will use the equipment for teaching and as a diagnostic tool for its many equine patients. “One of the most important diseases of Thoroughbred racehorses is that they develop certain types of stress fractures that are very difficult to diagnose and characterize,” he said. “This technology has the potential to help diagnose those early enough that we can manage them and help prevent the horse from suffering a catastrophic breakdown on the race track.”

The future of this technology goes well beyond horses. People don’t exactly enjoy the traditional CT scan experience, either. Kids, much like horses, may need to be sedated in order to get them to lie still long enough for the cameras to do their work. In the future, says Dallap Schaer, “instead of a child having to be anesthetized, they could sit there on their iPad and talk to their parents and have the image prepared in 30 seconds.”

Header image from YouTube // Futurism