Haptic Cow and Horse Building Confidence at University of Pretoria
The University of Pretoria has just invested in haptic technology, in the shape of Haptic Cow and Haptic Horse from Virtalis for its Faculty of Veterinary Science.
“The Skills Laboratory at the Faculty of Veterinary Science sought funding from the South African Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) for a haptic system, after I tried out Haptic Cow and Horse at The University of Bristol in the UK.” explained DrMedVet Annett Annandale, Onderstepoort Skills Laboratory manager within the Faculty of Veterinary Science at The University of Pretoria. “I immediately thought these systems would be ideal to give additional exposure to rectal examinations in cows and horses to complement our existing student training. Now our students can experience Haptic Cow and Horse alongside the traditional methods to further improve both confidence and competence.”
Both Haptic Cow and Haptic Horse training systems employ haptics to simulate an animal’s internal organs and were developed by Prof Sarah Baillie of The University of Bristol. They are marketed and supported worldwide by Virtalis, the leading Virtual Reality and visualisation company. Haptics, or force feedback technology, lies at the core of the systems. The haptic device integrated into the Haptic Cow and Horse is the Geomagic Phantom Premium from the 3D Systems Group. In the Haptic Cow, a virtual bovine reproductive tract is recreated, while The Haptic Horse replicates the internal rectal and abdominal organs of the horse. Both are positioned within a seemingly empty fibreglass model of the rear half of a cow or horse and both have a range of normal and abnormal conditions which can be replicated at the touch of a button.
Annett said: “Now 15 staff members within our Faculty are trained on the Haptic Cow, Haptic Horse, or both. In addition, we have four student assistants who help out with additional training.”
“Our students, mainly fourth, fifth or sixth years, have been amazed by their Haptic Cow and Haptic Horse experiences. The system has mainly been used so far as refresher training for small groups. Students find it convenient to use and have found that it helps them memorise the structures they are likely to encounter in real life, leaving them better prepared.”
The Haptic Cow and Horse make it possible for users to suspend their disbelief and makes touching and palpating virtual objects highly realistic. In addition, because the animal’s organs are visible on the computer monitor, the instructor can see exactly what the student is doing and direct their movements, something that isn’t possible with a live animal.
The virtual environment of the Haptic Cow simulates the entire bovine reproductive tract, including models of the cervix, uterus and ovaries, with a wide range of fertility cases, pregnancies and some examples of pathology. Prof Baillie and Virtalis have developed a teaching protocol, so that students learn initially to locate the uterus in different positions, mastering this fundamental skill, before progressing on to fertility examinations and diagnosing pregnancy.
The Haptic Horse gives a virtual representation of a horse’s abdomen and offers students the opportunity to learn how to carry out a systematic examination of the abdomen of a normal horse, as well as on those who are suffering from colic such as dilated loops of the small intestine, a pelvic flexure impaction, or displacements of other parts of the colon.
Annett explained: “Colic in horses is an emergency and so, realistically, only very few students can experience palpation under those circumstances. The Haptic Horse can replicate the various types of colic and, thanks to Sarah Baillie’s excellent teaching methodology, we can teach them to become familiar with the internal structures and different colic scenarios, making them more confident in real life examinations.”