The University of Cambridge has recently installed both the Haptic Cow and Horse at the Department of Veterinary Medicine.
Both training systems, employ a virtual environment and haptics to simulate an animal’s internal organs. These training tools 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.
Dr Jackie Brearley, Academic Lead for Clinical Skills within the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge, explained: “By the time our students reach their fourth year, or their first clinical year, they’ll have studied anatomy thoroughly via cadaver work and live surface anatomy classes and are prepared to start applying this knowledge in rectal examination for cattle fertility and horse colic diagnosis. Now, however, although our fourth years have still completed all the training offered to students in the past, we are finding that, since adding the haptic training prior to recalling live animals, they are so much better prepared. Additionally, the Haptic Horse simulating colic-related conditions provides a tactile experience that cannot be gained with clinical cases for ethical reasons.”
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.
Jackie continued: “Unlike with a live animal, we, as trainers, can see what they are feeling with Haptic Cow and Horse, so there is better communication between students and demonstrators. This means our students’ time with live animals is much better used, because they know what they should be attempting to achieve by touch already.”
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 University’s veterinary students have given both systems extremely positive feedback and have reported that Haptic Cow and Horse have increased their range of experiences and their confidence levels.
“We’re now planning to extend the use of both systems to the pre-clinical, anatomy-focussed part of the course”, said Jackie. “We are also finding Haptic Cow and Horse impressive to use on school open days and we are pleased that the system’s robustness enables it to be moved to where we need it.”