New Lab Combines Mixed, Virtual and Haptic Technologies To Provide Realistic Simulations for Students or Patients
Kent State University has opened its newest research center, the IC Touch Lab, that will revolutionize the way medical students practice and patients rehabilitate. Headed by Kwangtaek Kim, Ph.D, assistant professor of Computer Science, the lab conducts various research projects involving haptic technology to expand the possibilities of medical and rehabilitation practices.
Kim said he received funding for his “dream” project back in 2019 and started the journey of creating his lab at Kent State. The new Immersive Computing (IC) for Touch Lab opened in November of the same year.
Like many things, work in the lab was delayed due to the pandemic. The touch-based nature of these projects made it difficult to safely conduct them alongside early pandemic protocols.
Kim shares the facility with graduate students beginning their research. At the beginning stages, the students were fully virtual.
“It was difficult, but there was a way for us to continuously work together with a vision and passion,” said Kim.
The IC Touch Lab provides unique opportunities for students pursuing doctoral or master of science degrees to practice real life situations without having to leave campus.
One project the lab hosts is a mixed reality IV insertion simulation for nursing students. Using virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality glasses along with a prototype to simulate a patient's hand, the system gives the user the realistic feeling of inserting a needle into a patient’s skin.
Recently, the lab received an $850,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the IV insertion research. Grants like these are what make the wide scope of this research possible.
“I was really lucky to have that big grant. That really boosted my research activity,” Kim said. “I am actively working harder to write more grant proposals that can really benefit students in all departments.”
Another simulation allows medical students to practice skin tumor surgery. Using the combination of haptic and VR devices, students are able to practice tactile skills that otherwise would be hard to obtain without extensive clinical practice.
Other projects are centered around rehabilitation, using haptic technology to help patients with Parkinson's Disease or hemiparetic patients.
The use of this technology surpasses what professors were previously able to teach using typical classroom attributes like a textbook or whiteboard, said Kim. The hands-on aspects allow students to understand the feeling of these procedures, while complying with pandemic safety protocols.
“Now we have a COVID pandemic,” Kim said. “We don’t want a contact-based clinical practice. This system is perfect for noncontact-based, unlimited time that the student can practice to improve their clinical skills.”
For more information on the IC Touch Lab visit sites.google.com/view/ksu-ict.