"Smart" surgical gloves track medical students' hand movements
It goes without saying that surgeons require a very delicate, precise touch. A new set of surgical training gloves were designed with that fact in mind, as they monitor their wearer's hand movements, and provide feedback on their technique.
The electronically augmented latex gloves were designed by a team at Australia's Western Sydney University. A third-generation prototype version is currently being trialled by trainee surgeons at Britain's Liverpool Hospital.
Each glove incorporates a flexible flat electrical cable running along the back of the thumb, index and middle fingers. Each of those cables in turn has multiple IMUs (inertial measurement units) mounted along its length, to monitor the movements of each finger segment – there are a total of nine units in each glove.
In the planned final version of the technology, data from the IMUs will flow into a small printed circuit board mounted on the back of each glove, from which it will be transmitted by Bluetooth to an app running on a nearby smartphone, tablet or computer. As students practise procedures, that software can be used to assess how their hand movements measure up to those that would be ideal for the task.
"Recording movements on their own is not sufficient," lead scientist Dr. Gough Lui told us. "Our approach involves building a catalog of recordings from experienced surgeons performing set tasks, to which a student can then compare their own performance. This benchmark will provide a target for students to aim for."
All of that being said, the gloves are intended to augment traditional training methods, not replace them. They could conceivably also find use in other fields where development of manual dexterity is important, such as music or art.
Source: Western Sydney University