Virtalis/Royal Veterinary College/University of Glasgow

A COLLABORATION between Sarah Baillie a researcher at The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Virtalis, a leading virtual reality (VR) and advanced visualisation company, resulted in the creation and marketing of an innovative Haptic Cow, which allows trainee vets to explore a virtual model instead of a real animal.

As part of the preparation for clinical placement training, equipping students with basic skills by using the simulator will enable them to make more effective use of animals as a learning resource. This is important when the opportunities to practice on farms are increasingly limited.

During simulator training, the student palpates the virtual objects while interacting with a Phantom haptic device (from SensAble Technologies), positioned inside a model of a glass fibre rear-half of a cow. The teacher has the advantage of being able to see and follow the student’s actions, both directly and on the monitor, which is not possible in the real cow. Therefore, the teacher can operate more effectively, guiding movements, identifying structures palpated and providing feedback on the student’s performance.

The system is now in use at Glasgow and Nottingham universities and the RVC. A teaching protocol has been developed where the student learns initially to locate the uterus in different positions, mastering this fundamental skill before progressing on to fertility examinations and diagnosing pregnancy.

A key benefit of the system is that sessions can be fully customised to an individual student’s learning needs.

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