Integrated Haptic Feedback Drives Advanced Simulation Technology
| By: Jayme Meyers
Creating life like scenarios with simulation systems has always been a challenge when touch feedback is required. Video is able to immerse the user to a certain extent while tactile feedback can provide non-visual cues to make training and simulation environments more realistic. This is especially advantageous in the medical and industrial fields where hazardous or extreme conditions are a significant and stressful element of the role. Haptic technology can even enable users to access remote locations making it easier for experts to expand their territory while reducing expensive travel.
Haptic Feedback Minimizes Exposure to Hazardous Conditions
Engineers and operators in highly specialized fields such as industrial machinery, oil and gas, and robotics require years of training and experience which can slow the development of new technology. Knowledge acquired on-the-job can be difficult to pass on to new employees without comprehensive and immersive training. In the oil and gas industry, installations are sometimes located in remote regions or harsh environments.
Advances in Augmented Reality (AR) and haptics technology provide a unique opportunity for industrial workers to more effectively operate complicated, remote machinery. A user can simply slip on an AR headset and get an accurate graphical overlay of any off-site equipment. Then, perhaps using a haptic glove, a tactile response is generated via actuators or electrostatic current to make the user feel each button and knob they interact with. Instead of guessing whether a button was depressed, the glove produces a realistic click feeling for the user.
New developments in renewable energy technology have fostered a need for engineers and technicians to maintain and manage high tech equipment. AR and haptics hardware can be used to train new operators and can reduce dangerous impacts on machinery. Simulation training has been employed for decades in both military and aerospace sectors, however the potential applications are growing as new technology supports more realistic environments.
Realistic Tactile Response Improves Patient Outcomes
Surgical procedures have significantly evolved over the last few decades leading to quicker patient recovery times and better overall outcomes. Minimally invasive procedures are preferred because they inflict less stress on the patient and shorten healing time. These methods involve new surgical instruments that require extensive technical training. Simulated surgeries with precise touch feedback can help medical students and doctors better prepare and plan complex surgical procedures.
In robotic surgery, for example, surgeons generally complain about the lack of realistic haptic feedback when they are performing delicate procedures such as arthroscopic surgery. There aren’t many specialists in this area because it typically takes over 100 surgeries to achieve high proficiency which makes it difficult for doctors to accomplish during their residency. Simulated procedures can help residents supplement real-world experience while reducing adverse patient outcomes.
Enhance Perception by Combining Haptics and Sensors
Haptic technology is just one aspect of the system used to simulate realistic surgical procedures – sensors also play an important role in precise pressure measurement. Sensor designs continue to shrink while also maintaining high sensitivity and robustness. Surgical equipment manufactures can integrate tiny pressure sensors on the ends of surgical instruments to precisely detect the force placed on a patient’s tissue during operation. Advanced software is able to translate that measurement into a tactile response that a surgeon can feel on the instrument controls in real time. Sophisticated touch feedback tools will continue to rely on both advanced sensor and haptic technology to provide a complete picture to equipment operators.