National Biocomputation Center


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Distributed Haptics for Surgical Simulation

Collaboration with SUMMIT and Immersion Corporation

This project involves building force-feedback (haptic) surgical simulators that are distributed over the Internet2 backbone. In this way, multiple people in different locations can be seeing and feeling the same object at the same time. This technology enables many applications, from shared design, teleoperation, and surgical simulation.

Surgical simulators allow training surgeons to learn surgical skills at an accelerated pace and to practice surgery without risk to actual patients. We have been working on distributed force-feedback (haptic) surgical simulators over the past year and have developed a system that is a distributed client-server architecture. It consists of a force-feedback device with a dedicated computer running the haptics at the high update rates required (typically 500-1000 updates/second), communicating with a simulator engine running on a computer server that processes all the physics of the system. Working with our collaborators in the SUMMIT project, we would like to extend this system to working wide-area to allow them to assess how distance learning can be performed in surgical training.

The analysis of networking needs shows that this requires a low latency network infrastructure (<10ms) in order to maintain the high update rates required for realistic simulation (bandwidth is less of an issue here as each update uses a very lightweight, compressed protocol). Currently the system is running over a local 100 Mbps fast Ethernet switch and achieves good performance, but our research involves techniques to provide realistic simulation over a wide area network with possible congestion and other real-world factors. This application is not possible without the low-latency of Internet2 and will definitely push the frontier in real-world application of the infrastructure.

As soon as the connectivity is established, we should be able to run our existing application between Stanford and our collaborators at University of Wisconsin and Texas Tech University (both current Internet2 sites). From that point forward, we will research techniques for trading off latency and bandwidth and its effect on distributed surgical simulation, as well as issues in quality of service reservation protocols.

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