Veterinary students at Midwestern University in Arizona now have virtual technology at their fingertips with the Haptic Cow and Horse. Both training systems employ haptics, or force feedback, to simulate an animal’s internal organs.
The Haptic Cow and Horse are said to make touching and palpating virtual objects highly realistic. In addition, because the animal’s organs are visible on the computer monitor, the instructor can see exactly what the student is doing and direct their movements, something that isn’t possible with a real animal.
“Our faculty members have diverse experiences, so we were consulted on what resources are needed to deploy the best teaching techniques in order to secure better outcomes,” said Clemence Chako, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery within the College of Veterinary Medicine at Midwestern University. “In large animal practice, there are fewer mentoring opportunities, so it is really important that students are so well trained and confident that they are what we call: ‘Day One Ready.’ The Haptic Cow and Horse are perfect examples of technology being used to this effect.
“Although we have cattle and horses on our campus, they are not sufficient for all the students, who have no prior large animal experience to practice rectal palpation technique without compromising the animal’s wellbeing. The Haptic Cow provides opportunities for students to practice their technique whilst reducing the frequency with which our live animals undergo palpation.”
Haptic technology is what lies at the center of the Haptic Cow to create a virtual bovine reproductive tract, positioned within a seemingly empty fiberglass model of the rear half of a cow, according to Virtalis, a virtual reality and visualization company that markets and supports the technology.
The Haptic Horse gives a virtual representation of a horse’s abdomen and offers students the opportunity to learn how to carry out a systematic examination of the abdomen of a normal horse, as well as on those that suffer from colic such as dilated loops of the small intestine, a pelvic flexure impaction or displacements of other parts of the colon.
“Our students have given the systems a very positive evaluation, as it enabled them to virtually feel the organs just after they had learnt the anatomy,” Dr. Chako said. “Not only do they spatially experience where the various organs are, they get a feel for the texture too and all before they try this on a live animal.”
The haptic device integrated into the Haptic Cow and Horse is the Geomagic Phantom Premium from the 3D Systems Group.
The training systems were developed by Sarah Baillie, BVSc, Ph.D., professor at the University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences.