DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Why This Topic Interests Me

            My senior year, we were tasked with a small research project at the end of the year where we had certain topics to choose from, and one of them was haptics. The research was not in-depth. We only had to find a brief definition and a couple examples of the devices. I found several devices, but one that specifically piqued my interest was Disney Research’s REVEL (http://disneyresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/REVEL.pdf if you’re interested). In my research, I found an article about the future of haptics and where they think, specifically, the field of medicine is going with these devices. The article spoke of a surgeon operating on a patient on the other side of the world, and the surgeon’s ability to “feel” the person they are operating on, through the use of haptics. I feel like this is an important step in the future of medicine and I took advantage of wanting to research this topic further.


Initial Problem Statement

            While doing the literature reviews, the problem found was that haptic devices that aid surgeons in robotic-assisted surgery are not always reliable or accurate enough in order to provide the user (the surgeon) with the proper amount of tactile feedback and information. In the articles found, the researchers have identified and proposed several solutions to this problem, so Bonkers Tomato will research exactly how the devices work, and why they may or may not solve this problem.


Problem — Claim — Evidence — Reasoning

            Articles one through three, and article five all focused on the haptic technology itself. The first three were part of our initial literature review. From these articles we gained a basic understanding of haptic technology, and a few different devices that are under research & development in order to be implemented into minimally-invasive, robotic-assisted surgery [1,3,5]. These articles all had one main problem: there is a lack of information that is being provided to the user (the surgeon) during surgery [1,2,5]. These articles’ claim that the most effective solution is the implementation of haptic force feedback, in order to feel tissues, organs, etc. Their evidence is that when a haptic device was used in a surgical simulation, the surgeons’ reaction times were considerably lower than without a haptic device [1]. This provided the reasoning that haptic devices are necessary in robotic surgery, in order to better assist the surgeon in their procedure.

            After this initial research we decided that we were focusing on too many haptic devices for this research project. Since article one focused on a haptic foot pedal, and provided these results of lowered reaction times, we decided to focus our research on this haptic foot pedal, since it was further along in stages of research and development than other haptic devices. Articles four and six focused on the use of other types of foot pedals (not just for haptic-involved surgery), and also on the comfort/ergonomics of these pedals [4,6]. We were able to use these two articles to understand the needs of the user, rather than just focusing on the device and the technology. The problem with these pedals is that there needs to be a comfortable and effective foot pedal for the surgeons if these surgeons are going to be using them, sometimes, for several hours. They claimed that the most effective solution is to create an ergonomic foot pedal that “molds” to the foot, not just a flat, uncomfortable platform. Through experimentation using pressure sensors and probes, researchers were able to find the most sensitive areas of the foot, and build the pedal’s platform accordingly [4]. The researchers also surveyed surgeons who perform laparoscopic (a type of minimally invasive surgery) surgeries that utilize these foot pedals [6]. For these articles, they reasoned that in order to aid the surgeon even further, these foot pedals needed to be evaluated and adjusted in order to provide the best experience for the surgeon.


Revised Problem Statement

            We realized that our first problem statement was too broad for our research so, using the Statement-Restatement technique, we specified what we were trying to accomplish: Find a haptic device that is more accurate and reliable, and provides enough feedback provides sufficient haptic/tactile feedback, and noticeably shortens the reaction time of a surgeon performing minimally-invasive robotic assisted surgery. The text in bold is our initial statement, and the text crossed out is the part of our statement that we believed to be too general.


Engineering Ethics

            Behind every problem, we need to consider the ethical dilemmas. In our society, we are always trying to push the boundaries, in this day and age, it seems we are focused on science, technology and medicine. The implementation of these haptic devices have already proved beneficial (in simulations and training purposes), and some have been implemented into actual surgeries, providing successful results. These haptic devices also provide researchers topics to research and expand our abilities in the fields of science and medicine.

            For this topic, there are benefits and obviously some disadvantages. These devices make surgery easier for the surgeon, they provide the means for a successful surgery, and they are theoretically (and ideally) more accurate and precise. On the contrary, if there is only a need for a surgeon, the robot, and currently, an assistant, that gets rid of the multiple aids surgeons used to have in the operating room with them. Also, if we are already down to one surgeon, we can conclude that is only a matter of time before it is just the surgeon and the robot, or even just the robot. Given more time, we could find a way to keep these assistants present in the surgery and provide even more accurate results.


Personal Contributions, Leadership, & Reflections

            When we first started this research expedition, it was my suggestion which eventually led to the decision that we focus our research on the involvement of haptic devices in minimally-invasive surgery. I pitched to my guild members the idea that eventually we could have a surgeon on the other side of the world from his patient and they were immediately intrigued and wanted to learn more about this field of haptic technology.

            For the research proposal and literature reviews, I came up with our initial problem statement, and eventually our revised statement (with the input of the guild members). I also review one of the articles, wrote the introduction of our proposal detailing what haptic technology and its current and future uses, and addressed and fixed our citation problem from the initial review. I was Guild Leader for the initial review, but I feel like I helped to guide the group through the research and presentation sections. There is a lot of information on the field of haptics so it may be hard to focus on specifics and not get lost in the other information.

            I tried to lead this project as much as I could because this was a topic I had been interested in for quite a while. I tried not take the wind out from the Guild Leader at the time, but our guild works very well together so were all able to contribute and add to our discussions. We more or less share the leadership role and responsibilities, dividing the work up evenly and providing everyone the chance to have a say and input their suggestions. “Guild Leader” is pretty much just a title we put on the cover letter.

            During this journey, I had no idea the broadness of this field. There is so much research underway on haptics and we are just scratching the surface. Several articles we found were too complicated and technical for us to understand with such a minimal understanding of computer programming and the higher-level topics that contribute to these haptic devices. These surprises only fueled our fire to research further though. We tried our best to understand these higher-levels and bring them down to something basic that we could focus on and carry with us through the rest of our research. Before this class, I had never done such in-depth research as this. I have never actually had to read peer-reviewed journals before, which was a welcome challenge because I was ready to learn the specifics of technology, not just the broad understanding. With this new understanding of the process of research and in-depth literature reviews, I could pursue a research position or at least provide that I have the ability to do research of a higher caliber. 

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.