Midwestern University in Arizona has recently installed both the Haptic Cow and Horse in its new College of Veterinary Medicine to help make their students “Day One Ready”.
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, the leading Virtual Reality and visualisation company.
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.
Dr Clemence Chako, assistant professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery within the College of Veterinary Medicine at Midwestern University, explained: “Our faculty members have diverse experiences, so we were consulted on what resources are needed to deploy the best teaching techniques in order to secure better outcomes. In Large Animal Practice, there are fewer mentoring opportunities, so it is really important that students are so well trained and confident that they are what we call: “Day One Ready”. The Haptic Cow and Horse are perfect examples of technology being used to this effect. Although we have cattle and horses on our campus, they are not sufficient for all the students, who have no prior large animal experience to practice rectal palpation technique without compromising the animal’s well-being. The Haptic Cow provides opportunities for students to practice their technique whilst reducing the frequency with which our live animals undergo palpation.”
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.
“Thanks to Haptic Cow and Horse,” said Dr. Chako, “we are able to begin teaching these techniques from our students’ first year of study. Elsewhere, it was left to the clinical years or, alternatively, an elective would be offered to a limited number of students.”
“We’re very happy with both The Haptic Cow and Horse”, said Dr. Chako. “As a large animal veterinarian, I have vast experience in palpating live animals, yet I was very impressed by the realism of the virtual experience. These systems are a very effective way of teaching and my colleagues agree. Our students have given the systems a very positive evaluation, as it enabled them to virtually feel the organs just after they had learnt anatomy. Not only do they spatially experience where the various organs are, they get a feel for the texture too and all before they try this on a live animal.”