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Imaging at the movies: Siemens, others contribute to accurate portrayal of technology and maybe even better stories

Aug. 1, 2013 — I was sitting in the darkened theater, watching the credits roll by as I pondered what I’d just seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. I was only half-paying attention — mostly I was trying to decide whether (SPOILER ALERT) Spock’s “Khaaaaan!” line was poignant or hilarious — but a bit of text crawling up the screen happened to catch my eye: something to the effect of, “The producers would like to thank Siemens Healthcare.”

Hold on a sec. Siemens Healthcare?

Turns out the movie studio had approached Siemens looking for ultrasound technology to use in the movie and the company was happy to oblige. If you look closely in Star Trek Into Darkness you might just see a Siemens ACUSON P10 and an ACUSON X300 ultrasound system.

This wasn’t the first time Siemens had worked with a movie or television studio. “Star Trek was a bit unusual for us in terms of the genre,” said Lance Longwell, director of communications at Siemens Healthcare. “But we’ve been working with Hollywood probably for over a decade.” There’s the occasional science fiction or superhero-type thing, he added — the company contributed to the Hulk movie from a few years back. Mostly, though, they contribute to medical shows like House, with which they had a longstanding relationship.

From the company’s perspective, there are a host of benefits to doing so. “There’s obviously a ‘feel good’ component for employees and customers in seeing Siemens products on the screen,” Longwell said. “But there’s also value in helping studios portray medical imaging or healthcare in an accurate way.”

This can add an air of authenticity to a production, contributing to an overall sense of realism that the writers and directors are seeking to convey. At the same time, say the folks at the Science & Entertainment Exchange, a National Academy of Sciences program that seeks to connect entertainment industry professionals with scientists and engineers, it can open up new creative possibilities. Better understandings of how things work — of the sorts of tissues MRI can probe, to use an example from imaging — can help to shape storylines and sharpen narrative focus “without dulling credibility,” they explain.



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