IPhone users could soon be able to view massive, high-resolution images thanks to an app developed by University of Utah researchers.

Still in development, ViSUS on the iPhone will let you edit, view and zoom in on such objects as very high resolution, large-scale CT scans, satellite images and geographic images from Google Earth, all containing 100 gigabytes of data. The phone is only a visualisation platform: all those gigabytes of image data are running on high-powered servers somewhere else, and stream to the iPhone for rendering.

ViSUS will take the iPhone's imaging capabilities to a whole new level.

Today the software, originally written for workstations and PCs by Valerio Pascucci, a SCI Institute faculty member, is a powerful 3D visualisation program that can deal with massive data sets. One application has been to combine it with tools specifically designed for climate change researchers and meteorologists.

When released for the iPhone, ViSUS will marry the iPhone's big, bright screen to back-end server power, enabling mobile users to render and navigate very large, very detailed images.

The iPhone has a screen resolution of 480 x 320 pixels. According to the university, the best of today's high-definition TV sets has an image resolution of 1,080 x 1,920 pixels. But ViSUS can handle an image resolution of 200,000 by 200,000 pixels.

Streaming the images to the iPhone will let users see an entire image, at lower resolution, or zoom in to look at parts of the image, at higher resolution. The university says ViSUS handles the images faster, with less processing power, than other software, such as Google Earth.

The university is turning into a hot bed of high-definition iPhone image applications, all released in the last few months and available on Apple's App Store via iTunes. It has already released ImageVis3D Mobile which lets you import 3-D images of medical CT or MRI scans, or anything else, to your iPhone and quickly display, rotate and manipulate them.

It's based on a desktop/laptop application originally developed by the University's Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute (SCI), which specialises in software for visualisation, scientific computing and image analysis.

"Rendering the data on the iPhone is the really incredible thing about this," said Tom Fogal, a software developer with SCI, and co-author of the PC-based software, with Jens Krueger, a German computer scientist. Krueger wrote the iPhone version.

"It demonstrates the progress in hardware and [in] software algorithms gleaned from about 25 years of research," Fogal said. "Ten years ago, few people would consider doing what ImageVis3D does without a million-dollar supercomputer. And now, we do it on something that fits in the palm of your hand."

SCI is considering porting the application to other mobile platforms, including tablets, but they "have not yet found a device we'd like to target," Fogal said. ImageVis3D Mobile is a free application, appearing in the App Store in September.

Earlier this year, the university also released  AnatomyLab, a series of images let you study a real cadaver through 40 stages of an actual dissection. It's designed for anatomy students, many of whom don't have access to cadavers in anatomy labs.