From Surgery to Sex, Haptic Technology Advances

Stephen Yagielowicz
Haptics may be amongst the adult entertainment industry's current favorite buzzwords, but the technology — and the applications fueling its development, go far beyond early-adopter implementations such as AEBN's interactive RealTouch device.

Recently, Stanford University researchers developed a touch-enabled virtual "body double" with which surgeons could realistically practice sinus surgeries; using a touch sensitive, feedback enabled input system.

The system was developed along with Woburn, Mass.-based SensAble Technologies, a provider of haptic devices and touch-enabled modeling solutions, which provided its Phantom force-feedback haptic devices for the Stanford program.

An article in the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy detailed Stanford's Virtual Surgical Environment (VSE), which uses the patient's own CT scan images to produce a touch-enabled 3D model of the individual patient's sinus morphology.

"Using the system, experienced surgeons can work by feel to digitally plan specific surgical pathways based on the patient's actual anatomy, reducing the element of surprise during actual surgery," a SensAble spokesperson stated. "Additionally, residents can use the system to learn the feeling of the anatomical variability presented in a case, and train on techniques that best address a patient's needs, with zero risk to the patient."

According to the Journal report, Stanford's system utilized off-the-shelf hardware and cost a tenth of current surgery simulators which do not provide a personalized representation of the patient.

"Someday soon, consumers will be asking their doctors to cite how many times he/she has rehearsed their surgery on their own virtual body double — not simply how many times they've performed the procedures on other people," said Dr. David Chen, chief technology officer at SensAble Technologies. "Stanford's work is at the forefront of patient-specific surgical planning, and builds on the increasing use of touch-enabled virtual training systems."

Haptics provides an important sense of realism to these systems, and we believe the results will be better trained surgeons and better patient outcomes," Chen added.

For the adult entertainment industry, the sense of realism that haptic technology promises will result in better satisfied consumers — where the "outcome" will mean ongoing sales. While the technology may be developed under the auspices of getting a better feel for a patient, it won't take too long before performers are thus digitized, with consumers enjoying a better feel for his or her favorite performer — with hi-tech sensory gloves providing the sense of "touch" and virtual environments setting the stage.

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