Updated 2018 Tierney Kinnison
The Haptic Cow is a virtual reality simulator developed by Sarah Baillie, a veterinarian and computer scientist. The Haptic Cow was developed to help train veterinary students to palpate a cow's reproductive tract, to perform fertility examinations and to diagnose pregnancy. The simulator uses haptic (touch feedback) technology and has a PHANToM haptic device (from SensAble Technologies) positioned inside a fibreglass model of the rear-half of a cow. When being trained with the Haptic Cow, the student palpates computer- generated 3D virtual objects representing the uterus, ovaries, pelvis and abdominal structures. The teacher provides instruction and feedback while following the student's hand movements inside the cow on the computer monitor.
The simulator has been validated i.e. shown to be an effective teaching tool (Baillie et al , 2005, Baillie et al, 2010). Students taught with the simulator performed significantly better when examining real cows and set the task of locating the uterus than a control group i.e. skills learned in the simulated environment transferred to the real task.
Using the Haptic Cow
The Haptic Cow was first used in farm animal teaching at Glasgow in 2003 (during Sarah Baillie's PhD) and extensive feedback was gathered from students (Baillie et al , 2005). It is now in use at several veterinary schools in the UK.
At the Royal Veterinary College the Haptic Cow is implemented into the curriculum in several stages:
In 1st year to teach abdominal anatomy in 3D (Kinnison et al, 2009). Over 200 students are taught over a 2 day period and each student gets a chance to feel bovine anatomy as if ‘seen’ from the tail!
In 3rd year it is used to teach the basic skills in preparation for farm animal practicals and EMS (extramural studies / workplace training). This includes comparing structures of the reproductive system.
Both these learning opportunities are delivered by veterinary students acting as peer, or near-peer tutors. The tutors are trained to deliver this teaching each year (Baillie et al, 2008) and we feel it is a very effective and efficient means of teaching our students.
There is also an automated, self-teaching, version whereby the haptic device moves the student’s hand along a pre-recorded path (an examination performed by a vet) (Baillie et al, 2010).
Since April 2007, we have recorded over 3000 student sign-ins at the RVC for students using the simulator.
The Haptic Horse
Veterinary students on intramural rotations (IMR) at the RVC are often brought to the LIVE Centre by their lecturers to use the Haptic Horse. The Horse uses all the same hardware as the Cow, but a different programme! The Haptic Horse allows students to feel normal structures including the caecum, kidney and spleen. It also has examples of colic (abdominal pain).
Watch the Haptic Cow in Action
Veterinary Haptics at the RVC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ephvAcFeGnU
BBC video of the Haptic Cow at Cutting-edge Science