November 29, 2010

Training the Healer of the Future

With the research Shichao Liu is conducting he might one day be able to remotely control a surgical robot from his workspace at Carleton … in his home country of China.

Liu, who arrived at Carleton three months ago as a PhD student, will work to improve the sensitivity of haptic-surgical technology, or rather the technology that allows for remote surgical procedures, using a hand guiding a robot.

Peter Liu, a systems and engineering professor at Carleton, says his student Liu is working on improving the stability and transparency of the current technology, which can largely be used for training purposes.

“We can simulate operations with virtual technology,” says the professor. “And it’s just like real surgery, so this way you can train doctors. It gives them a hands-on feel.” Professor Liu’s hope is that one day cadavers and animals will become obsolete in the surgical world.

“People have talked about video and audio for decades – now we know how important the sense of touch is”

In order to create more transferable skills amongst doctors, Liu and Liu will examine how to create a more stable interface – the tool used by the hand that controls the computer simulation. This, Professor Liu says, will make the simulations more realistic.

“People have talked about video and audio for decades,” says the professor. “Now we start to know how important the sense of touch is.”

He says the current technology may only be limited to training for the time being, but he believes it will have a greater impact in the near future.

“I am thankful for the fellowship for this opportunity,” says Liu, the student. He received one of the 2010 President’s Doctoral Fellowships, which allowed him to come to Carleton to study. With this research, Liu has big hopes. He says one day he hopes the system will allow users in Ottawa to perform surgeries in Toronto… or beyond.

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