Can real world generic skills such as discrimination of stiffness or height be improved using a haptic training package
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Can real world generic psychomotor skills such as discrimination of stiffness or height be improved using a haptic training package? Neil Tuttle; Allana Pennels; James Wooldridge AIMS: To determine if a haptic program designed to improve student ability to discriminate stiffness and bump height results in improved ability to discriminate in real-world tasks. BACKGROUND: Virtual reality simulators including a haptic (force feedback) component have been demonstrated to be effective in training instrumented procedural skills including dentistry and endoscopic surgery and task-specific soft-tissue palpation skills in veterinary science. Soft tissue palpation in physiotherapy, on the other hand is difficult to simulate with haptic devices. It is thought, that student skills would improve if their tactile discrimination could be improved. It is not known, however whether training student ability to discriminate using a haptic system will produce the intended result of improvement in real-world abilities. METHODS: Thirty-eight physiotherapy or exercise science students were tested to determine the smallest detectable differences in stiffness and height in a real-world task. The tests were performed twice; allowing or excluding cutaneous cues from deformation of the finger pad. Half of the students then participated in four 30-minute sessions using the stiffness and height discrimination modules of the Haptic Modules for Palpatory Diagnosis Training program. Both groups were retested in the real-world discrimination tasks. Training effects were evaluated with ttests and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were used to evaluate relationships between individual student’s real-world and haptic abilities. RESULTS: No differences were detected between groups or between before and after haptic training in ability to discriminate stiffness or height either with or without cutaneous cues. Students’ ability to discriminate stiffness in real-world tasks demonstrated a small, but significant correlation with their haptic abilities, but no such relationship was found for the height discrimination task. Students reported the modules were user friendly but their overall satisfaction was low. It appeared that students may have improved their ability on the haptic modules by learning ‘how to play the haptic game’ rather than improving their ability to discriminate differences in stiffness or height. CONCLUSIONS: Although no firm conclusions can be drawn from this study due to the small sample size and methodological issues, it does not support using hapic modules to improve student abilty in generic palpation skills.
Medical and Health Sciences