Cambridge University Veterinary Course
By the time Cambridge’s students reach their fourth year, or their first clinical year, they have studied the anatomy on both horses and cattle thoroughly, via a cadaver, and are ready to begin rectal training on live animals. However, as it isn’t possible, or ethical, to give the horses colic, the students’ experience with live animals is more to do with orientation than the condition itself.
What are the Haptic Cow and Horse?
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 real animal. Both training systems employ haptics to simulate an animal’s internal organs and were developed by Prof Sarah Baillie of The University of Bristol and are marketed and supported worldwide by Virtalis.
How do they work?
Haptics, or force feedback, technology lies at the core of The Haptic Cow to create a virtual bovine reproductive tract, positioned within a seemingly empty fibreglass model of the rear half of a cow.
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 (twisted gut), a pelvic flexure impaction (constipation), or displacements of other parts of the colon.
The haptic device integrated into the Haptic Cow and Horse is the Geomagic Phantom Premium from the 3D Systems Group. Both the Haptic Cow and Horse have a range of conditions the students can learn about and these are replicated at the touch of a button.
Cambridge has recently installed both the Haptic Cow and Horse in its Department of Veterinary Medicine.
Jackie Brearley, an academic for clinical skill within the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge, explained: “Although our fourth years have still completed all the training offered to students in the past, including the post mortem, we are finding that since adding the haptic training, they are so much better prepared for the training on live animals. Additionally, Haptic Horse does simulate colic related conditions, providing experience that cannot be gained with live animals.”
Unlike with a live animal, trainers can see what the students are feeling with Haptic Cow and Horse, so there is better communication between students and demonstrators. This means Cambridge students’ time with live animals is much better used, because they know what they should be attempting to achieve by touch already. It also means that the live sessions are ethically improved for the animals too.
Confidence Levels Increased
Cambridge University’s veterinary students have given both systems extremely positive feedback and have reported that Haptic Cow and Horse have increased their confidence levels.
The Department is now planning to extend the use of both systems to the pre-clinical, anatomy focussed part of the course.
The Department is also finding Haptic Cow and Horse impressive to use on school open days with the system’s robustness enabling it to be moved to where it is needed.
Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge Website