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Minimally invasive telerobotic surgical systems enable surgeons to perform complicated procedures without large incisions. Unfortunately, these systems typically do not provide the surgeon with sensory feedback aside from stereoscopic vision. We have, thus, developed VerroTouch, a sensing and actuating device that can be added to Intuitive Surgical's existing da Vinci S Surgical System to provide auditory and vibrotactile feedback of tool contact accelerations. These cues let the surgeon feel and hear contact with rough textures as well as the making and breaking of contact with objects and other tools. To evaluate the merits of this approach, we had 11 surgeons use an augmented da Vinci S to perform three in vitro manipulation tasks under four different feedback conditions: with no acceleration feedback, with audio feedback, with haptic feedback, and with both audio and haptic. Subjects expressed a significant preference for the inclusion of tool contact acceleration feedback, although they disagreed over which sensory modality was best. Other survey responses and qualitative written comments indicate that the feedback may have improved the subject's concentration and situational awareness by strengthening the connection between the surgeon and the surgical instruments. Analysis of quantitative task metrics shows that the feedback neither improves nor impedes the performance of the chosen tasks.
Date of Publication: May-June 2011