CHICAGO, Nov. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Parents may soon be able to watch their unborn babies grow in realistic 3-D immersive visualizations, thanks to new technology that transforms MRI and ultrasound data into a 3-D virtual reality model of a fetus, according to research being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). MRI provides high-resolution fetal and placental imaging with excellent contrast. It is generally used in fetal evaluation when ultrasound cannot provide sufficiently high-quality images. Researchers in Brazil created virtual reality 3-D models based on fetal MRI results. Sequentially-mounted MRI slices are used to begin construction of the model. A segmentation process follows in which the physician selects the body parts to be reconstructed in 3-D. Once an accurate 3-D model is created—including the womb, umbilical cord, placenta and fetus—the virtual reality device can be programmed to incorporate the model. "The 3-D fetal models combined with virtual reality immersive technologies may improve our understanding of fetal anatomical characteristics and can be used for educational purposes and as a method for parents to visualize their unborn baby," said study co-author Heron Werner Jr., M.D., Ph.D., from the Clínica de Diagnóstico por Imagem, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The virtual reality fetal 3-D models are remarkably similar to the postnatal appearance of the newborn baby. They recreate the entire internal structure of the fetus, including a detailed view of the respiratory tract, which can aid doctors in assessing abnormalities. For the virtual reality device, Dr. Werner and colleagues used the latest-generation Oculus Rift 2 headset. Oculus Rift 2 places the user in an immersive environment, complete with heartbeat sounds derived from the ultrasound of the fetus. Users can study the 3-D fetal anatomy simply by moving their head.