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Palpation is a procedure that enables a practitioner to obtain tactile information about the internal condition of tissue that is not visible from the surface. However the methods currently employed to train these clinical diagnosis skills are insufficient in accurately rendering the sensations of abnormalities to the fingertips. In this paper we propose an augmented reality haptic palpation system that simulates a wide range of cancer pathologies to be implemented in training breast examination. A homogeneous silicone elastomer material mimicking breast tissue is palpated with the finger connected to a haptic interface, which generates the perception that a seemingly empty medium contains embedded tumours. In order to represent stages and severity of the disease, the parameters of depth, diameter, stiffness and location of the virtual lumps are considered to contribute a fully reconfigurable biomechanical inhomogeneous model. Experiments are conducted with users to observe how accurately these parameters can be identified on the breast surface. The results demonstrate that subjects could precisely ascertain the objects composition and also distinguish virtual lumps of different material compliance. The system provides a novel alternative to existing healthcare trainers and moves closer towards an immersive virtual reality simulator.
Date of Conference: Nov. 30 2010-Dec. 2 2010