Virtalis Creates VR System for Ground Breaking Surgical Research
In recent years, significant resources and research activities worldwide have been invested in the creation of Virtual Reality (VR) environments to train specialised skills for surgeons. Virtalis was one of the first, creating a trainer for minimally invasive therapy. Now, a research team from De Montfort University has begun work on assessing the feasibility for a whole team VR surgical trainer with Virtalis both supplying and designing the VR research platform.
Dr. Seng Chong, an Academic Fellow within the Mechatronics Research Centre, explained:“Although the skill of a surgeon is vital for a well-functioning surgical team, it is only part of the total picture for the success of any surgical intervention. Recent empirical studies suggest that poor teamwork and ineffective communications within surgical teams are associated with increased likelihood of human error and adverse effects on the patient. Therefore, effective surgical teamwork and communication are essential to accommodate uncertainties within surgical procedures to ensure success. This highlights the importance of training of the whole surgical team to achieve acceptable and safe standards, rather than focusing only on the skills of the surgeon.”
Dr. Chong and his colleagues held discussions with a number of hospital teams before developing a proposal for a VR Co-operative Training Environment. They then approached Virtalis, Europe’s leading VR Company, for help in creating the detailed specification. Commented Dr. Chong: “We needed a tracking system, Head Mounted Displays (HMD) and a haptic device and all of these separate elements needed to function as ain integrated system, so we were grateful for expert input we received from the Virtalis team.”
As the Mechatronics Research Centre has undertaken extensive work in a range of research projects related to virtual engineering, system modelling and simulation, the team was well acquainted with Dassault Systèmes’ DELMIA suite of products. Virtools is Dassault’s advanced visualisation system, so was a natural step for the De Montfort team. Virtalis is the UK’s sole Virtools reseller and training centre. With Virtools technology, the Mechatronics Research Group will be able to develop the desktop-based and large-scaled interactive digital mock-ups that are vital for this research.
With assistance from Dassault Systèmes, Virtalis has integrated the haptic glove from 5DT directly into Virtools. The high end Head Mounted Display (HMD) chosen is a NVIS nVisor ST. This is a high-resolution, see-through head-mounted display designed for augmented reality applications requiring a wide field-of-view format with superior SXGA image quality. The NVIS has been partnered with a Cybermind Visette, another see-through HMD, which boasts a resolution of SXGA 1280×1024. The HMDs are combined with a wireless InterSense IS-900 Motion Tracking System, one of the most widely used systems, because of its six degree of freedom inertial motion tracking that can be used to track both position and orientation, while ultrasonic range measurements are used for drift correction purposes via an advanced kalman filter. The IS-900 does not use magnetometers, so metallic interference is not a concern. The surgery team working with the researchers will also wear 5DT Data Glove 14 Ultras. These are capable of measuring finger flexure, as well as the abduction between fingers.
De Montfort is now collaborating with a team from Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, which is led by Prof. Joseph Dias, Head of School of Surgery, East Midlands Healthcare Workforce Deanery (South). Dr. Chong concluded: “Our research in this new and exciting area has barely begun, but we hope that our collaboration with the hospital team and Virtalis will prove to be the first step to developing the world’s first VR Co-operative Trainer for Surgical Teams.”