Science 3 min read

Give Yourself an Ultrasound with AI and Your iPhone

GagliardiPhotography /

GagliardiPhotography /

A startup has developed a low-cost portable ultrasound device that, coupled with a smartphone, could facilitate medical imaging. The technology has garnered FDA clearance for 13 healthcare applications.

Biotech scientist and entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg is known for launching specialized startups in DNA sequencing as well as sequencing the individual human genome for the first time.

Dr. Rothberg is the founder of 454 Life Sciences, Ion Torrent, CuraGen Corporation, Clarifi, RainDance Technologies, Lam Therapeutics, Quantum-Si, Hyperfine Research.

Butterfly iQ, portable ultrasound scanner for the whole body.Click To Tweet

Through his latest startup, Butterfly Network, Dr. Rothberg wants to revolutionize medical imaging with a hand-held ultrasound scanner that would be as affordable as a stethoscope and as ubiquitous as a thermometer.

Butterfly iQ: Ultrasound-on-a-Chip

Based in Connecticut, the Butterfly Network is a startup that has been working for over three years to develop a portable ultrasound device that fits on a chip.

The result is Butterfly iQ, an “ultrasound-on-a-chip” medical imaging device that plugs into an iPhone to perform a superficial and deep ultrasound directly and display the results on the screen.

Unlike traditional ultrasound machines that are bulky and require special ceramic crystals to generate and receive sound waves, Butterfly iQ uses a 2D array of about 9,000 tiny microelectromechanical drums embedded on a conventional semiconductor chip.

To make Butterfly iQ even more versatile, the startup plans on integrating AI into the device. A machine learning algorithm would search a database of images looking for clues to help physicians make the correct diagnosis quickly.

FDA Approves Butterfly iQ for 13 Applications

According to Butterfly Network, Butterfly iQ has already received FDA 510(k) clearance for diagnostic imaging for 13 clinical applications:

  • Abdominal
  • Cardiac Adult
  • Cardiac Pediatric
  • Fetal/Obstetric
  • Gynecological
  • Musculo-Skeletal (Conventional)
  • Musculo-Skeletal (Superficial)
  • Pediatric
  • Peripheral Vessel
  • Procedural Guidance
  • Small Organ
  • Urology

Butterfly Network, putting forward the catchphrase “Whole body imaging, under $2k”, will put its ultrasound device on sale for $1,999 USD.

Units will start shipping across the U.S. early next year, but international customers can reserve the iQ now and wait until the product becomes available in their respective countries.

A Surgeon Diagnoses his own Tumor Using Butterfly iQ

Ultrasound imaging, though not as sharp as some other imaging technologies like MRI, is an effective diagnostic tool. And Dr. John Martin can vouch for that, as well as for the effectiveness of Butterfly iQ.

Dr. John Martin, a vascular surgeon and Chief Medical Officer at Butterfly Network, tested Butterfly iQ on himself and detected his own cancer.

What would you use an ultrasound for?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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