Touchy Feely Devices

Yesterday, a Toronto-based technology firm called Quanser unveiled prototypes of devices that incorporate haptic, or feeling feedback, technology for medical applications. Quanser expects the devices will be used, among other things, for stroke-victim upper body rehabilitation and physician training. A recovering stroke patient could view on a monitor a chair, for example, while applying pressure to a robotic arm. The haptic-equipped arm would simulate the feeling of pushing against an actual chair. Similarly, surgeons in training could experience the feel of cutting through skin or injecting a needle, without ever having to touch a patient. About the firm’s needle simulator device, CTO Jacob Apkarian tells the Canadian Press, “You’re supposed to puncture the first two layers of skin without going through the third, and you would try that a few times before getting it right. You can’t afford to do that on a live patient.”

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