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Touch Point Finger Pad Digitizer

Background

Significant advancements have been made in non-clinical surgical training simulations - virtual reality, robotics and computer simulations have enabled a wide range of skills to be practiced and tested. However, there is still significant interest in finding ways to monitor learning progress and confirm proficiency.

A surgical trainee has to gain real experience in handling tools and performing procedures. Where those procedures require a very high degree of fine motor control, it would be very powerful to directly compare a trainee's performance with that of an expert throughout the task - grip, point pressures, movement, finger position and so on over time from start to finish.

For a physiotherapy or massage therapy trainee, recording performance and comparing with that of an expert can help illustrate how hard to press around the human body and how that should vary as patients vary in size/shape/age and so on.

There are methods to monitor criteria such as grip pressure and finger position currently but they are typically accomplished by placing a sensor between finger and object. If a task requires fine motor control and tactile feedback (sense of touch), a device that inhibits that sense of touch is less than ideal.

Description of the Invention

The Touch Point Finger Pad Digitizer allows a user to quantify and map the shape and topography of any rigid or semi-rigid object by touching it with one or more fingers to build a full 3D virtual surface map, without obstructing the finger pads. It provides both accurate 3D positional and force data in a minimally intrusive manner. It can quantify grip pressures at the fingers as well as the central pressure point location of surface features. This means that as well as mapping an unknown (and unseen) surface or object, a trainee or less experienced individual can compare their performance of a known task with data from an expert or highly experienced individual performing the same task, providing an opportunity for feedback on tactile proficiency that is otherwise very difficult to provide objectively.

Potential Advantages

• The finger pads are unhindered so that the user's natural tactile sensations and feedback are maintained
• In testing, accuracy of the system is roughly ±0.2N pressure and less than ±2mm position
• The sensors are very stable, reliable and predictable
• The sensors are very cheap to manufacture and integrate into a monitoring system, much cheaper than capacitive sensors
• The system is very fast as the sensors are read simultaneously with no charge-discharge cycle necessary

Potential Applications

• Building a very complete 3D map of an unseen surface - such as reverse engineering or surgical bone mapping without visual access
• Building knowledge of grip pressure, dexterity and fine motor control through task performance - such as surgical technique simulation training, physiotherapy or massage skills training, or manufacturing assembly quality control and training
• New styles of fine motor control computer interaction - such as video game control or modeling of real object handling within a virtual world

Patent Status

• PCT patent application filed, PCT/CA2014/051050.

Patent Information:

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