Anser EMT: the first open-source electromagnetic tracking platform for image-guided interventions

  • Herman Alexander JaegerEmail author
  • Alfred Michael Franz
  • Kilian O’Donoghue
  • Alexander Seitel
  • Fabian Trauzettel
  • Lena Maier-Hein
  • Pádraig Cantillon-Murphy
Original Article



Electromagnetic tracking is the gold standard for instrument tracking and navigation in the clinical setting without line of sight. Whilst clinical platforms exist for interventional bronchoscopy and neurosurgical navigation, the limited flexibility and high costs of electromagnetic tracking (EMT) systems for research investigations mitigate against a better understanding of the technology’s characterisation and limitations. The Anser project provides an open-source implementation for EMT with particular application to image-guided interventions.


This work provides implementation schematics for our previously reported EMT system which relies on low-cost acquisition and demodulation techniques using both National Instruments and Arduino hardware alongside MATLAB support code. The system performance is objectively compared to other commercial tracking platforms using the Hummel assessment protocol.


Positional accuracy of 1.14 mm and angular rotation accuracy of \(0.04^{\circ }\) are reported. Like other EMT platforms, Anser is susceptible to tracking errors due to eddy current and ferromagnetic distortion. The system is compatible with commercially available EMT sensors as well as the Open Network Interface for image-guided therapy (OpenIGTLink) for easy communication with visualisation and medical imaging toolkits such as MITK and 3D Slicer.


By providing an open-source platform for research investigations, we believe that novel and collaborative approaches can overcome the limitations of current EMT technology.


Electromagnetic tracking Open source Image guidance Image-guided surgery OpenIGTLink 



This work was supported by the Irish Health Research Board (POR/2012/31), Science Foundation Ireland (15/TIDA/2846). This work was also supported by the European Union through the ERC starting Grant COMBIOSCOPY under the New Horizon Framework Programme Grant Agreement ERC-2015-StG-37960. The authors would also like to acknowledge the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, and the Institute of Image-Guided Surgery (IHU), Strasbourg, in supporting this work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

This articles does not contain patient data.


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Copyright information

© CARS 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herman Alexander Jaeger
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alfred Michael Franz
    • 3
  • Kilian O’Donoghue
    • 4
  • Alexander Seitel
    • 3
  • Fabian Trauzettel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lena Maier-Hein
    • 3
  • Pádraig Cantillon-Murphy
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.IHU StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.University College CorkCorkIreland
  3. 3.Division of Computer Assisted Medical InterventionsGerman Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)HeidelbergGermany
  4. 4.CorkIreland

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