Virtual drilling haptics perception from auditory cues employing low-end haptic devices
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Simulation-based training is being widely adopted in medical education because it allows exposing trainees to safe and controlled simulated scenarios otherwise impossible to reproduce in real life. Current advances in immersive technologies including those related to Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR), are providing innovative tools to design immersive virtual simulation solutions that are available to a wide range of users through consumer-level hardware. As a result, the field of simulation is currently seeing a great effort and emphasis on the use of VR/AR, to motivate and engage the trainee in an ethically safe and cost-effective manner. Although the use of virtual simulation in medical education is rapidly becoming more widespread, most applications are still focused on cognitive skill development. Due to various technical limitations and cost issues, technical skill development (e.g., surgical drilling skills), that requires the simulation of the sense of touch in the virtual domain require high-end and expensive haptic devices and are therefore, often overlooked. Current high-end haptic devices are restricted to larger institutions that can afford the complex hardware, thus limiting a larger user install base. On the other hand, low-end haptic devices with limited functionality regarding degrees of freedom, force feedback, and resolution, are available. However, further studies are required to understand their suitability for medical training and as an alternative to their high-end counterparts. The goal of this work is to determine whether sound can be used to increase the perception of haptic fidelity inherent in consumer-level haptic devices to allow the use of such devices (coupled with the appropriate auditory cues) in applications that require higher fidelity at a fraction of the associated cost. Here I present an experiment in which participants were asked to perform a virtual drilling task (drilling wood) using two consumer-level haptic devices (Novint Falcon, and 3D Systems Touch 3D Stylus) in the presence of contextual sound (prerecorded wood drilling sound) and non-contextual sound (no sound, classical music, and white noise). Although the results of this study do not show any statistically significant difference in task performance the experiment is a necessary step in understanding the role of sound on haptic perception.