Haptic gloves add a sense of touch to surgical training tech
It was just last year that we heard about the Fundamental Surgery simulator, which utilizes dual haptic feedback arms to provide the "feel" of performing various surgical procedures. The system has now been taken a step further, with the demonstrated integration of whole-hand virtual reality gloves.
Developed by London-based FundamentalVR, Fundamental Surgery is based around a centrally-hosted software platform. Universities and hospitals utilizing the service can supply their own third-party PCs/laptops, VR headsets and haptic feedback arms, or purchase them in a package from the company.
Both medical students and qualified surgeons see and hear the sights and sounds of various operations via the headset, manipulating virtual surgical tools by moving corresponding real-world handles attached to the feedback arms. As those tools press, probe or cut into the computer-animated flesh and bone, the arms push back against the user's hands, replicating the resistance that a surgeon would encounter when actually performing the procedure.
Now, haptic-feedback gloves made by Seattle-based HaptX have been used with the system.
Each HaptX Glove is equipped with 130 microfluidic tactile sensors, that respond to what's happening in the simulation by pressing against the user's skin, simulating the sensation of touching a physical object. The system is capable of applying up to 4 lb (1.8 kg) of resistive force feedback to each finger, plus it utilizes motion-tracking tech to follow the user's hand movements with "sub-millimeter precision."
In a recent demonstration (seen in the video below), a Fundamental Surgery user utilized one of the gloves and one feedback arm to perform a computer-animated anterior total hip arthroplasty. Among other things, that person was reportedly able to feel a boney growth around the rim of the hip socket, and they could identify a ligament that's a key to the procedure.
"When it comes to surgical training simulations, a sense of touch is a game-changer, but has traditionally only been possible with immobile equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars," says FundamentalVR CEO Richard Vincent. "Our platform currently works with haptic arms, but is designed to evolve as hardware innovations allow new products such as HaptX Gloves to come to market."