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News Archive 2001 - 2010

UTA Researchers Create New Look and Feel to Virtual Surgery

January 15, 2002

Training procedures utilizing computer-generated simulations are in common use, especially by airlines, manufacturers, the military and the medical fields. What's lacking in today's surgery simulators is realistic feedback to the surgeon in training. Electrical Engineering Professor Venkat Devarajan and his team are developing a VR training system that provides the look and feel that laparoscopic surgeons require.

Laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, using small punctures in the body to gain access to internal organs, requires the use of remotely operated instruments such as cameras, probes, clamps and scalpels. The surgeon is, in effect, receiving some information "second hand." This effect is especially pronounced in virtual reality trainers because all perceived information is computer generated. "Today's surgical trainers are in their infancy," said Dr. Devarajan. "The graphic quality is limited, with a lag time in responding to inputs. But most importantly, they don't provide tactile feedback to the operator, so the surgeon cannot know how much force is needed to make a cut or squeeze a clamp." Devarajan and his team of 12 graduate students are developing a real-time deformation and tactile modeling system that will replicate the look and feel of an actual operation. They will be utilizing Dr. Devarajan's extensive experience in creating virtual reality trainers, including mission rehearsal and flight simulators for the US Navy.

The research is being funded through a $225,000 Advanced Technology Program grant from the Texas Coordinating Board of Higher Education. A $150,000 Advanced Research Program grant and seed money from UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas' Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery funded the team's early work. Working in collaboration with Dr. Devarajan are Dr. Robert Eberhart of UTA's Biomedical Engineering Program, Dr. Dan Jones of the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and area surgeons and surgical residents. Devarajan plans to have the system ready for commercial licensing in 2004.