Three-dimensional touch interface for medical education

IEEE Trans Inf Technol Biomed. 2007 May;11(3):251-63. doi: 10.1109/titb.2006.884359.


We present the technical principle and evaluation of a multimodal virtual reality (VR) system for medical education, called a touch simulator. This touch simulator comes with an innovative three-dimensional (3-D) touch sensitive input device. The device comprises a six-axis force-torque sensor connected to a tangible object representing the shape of an anatomical structure. Information related to the point of contact is recorded by the sensor, processed, and audiovisually displayed. The touch simulator provides a high level of user-friendliness and fidelity compared to other purely graphically oriented simulation environments. In this paper, the touch simulator has been realized as an interactive neuroanatomical training simulator. The user can visualize and manipulate graphical information of the brain surface or different cross-sectional slices by a finger-touch on a brain-like shaped tangible object. We evaluated the system by theoretical derivations, experiments, and subjective questionnaires. In the theoretical analysis, we could show that the contact point estimation error mainly depends on the accuracy and the noise of the sensor, the amount and direction of the applied force, and the geometry of the tangible object. The theoretical results could be validated by experiments: applying a normal force of 10 N on a 120 mm x 120 mm x 120 mm cube causes a maximum error of 2.5 +/- 0.7 mm. This error becomes smaller when increasing the contact force. Based on the survey results, the touch simulator may be a useful tool for assisting medical schools in the visualization of brain image data and the study of neuroanatomy.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Computer Graphics
  • Computer Simulation
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / instrumentation*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Neuroanatomy / education*
  • Neuroanatomy / instrumentation*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation
  • Touch*
  • Transducers
  • User-Computer Interface*