Brain surgery training via phone?

A colleague here at the Institute was telling me that they don't get on with touchscreen phones because it's impossible to text whilst walking.

Personally I find it difficult to talk and walk, let alone text, but the same thought crossed my mind when I was typing on an iPad - of course the size of the screen makes it a much happier experience than on other touchscreen devices, but you still yearn for some tactile feedback.

I realize this is not a ground breaking insight, so I had a little search around to see what I could find of current developments in this area.

First, an interesting piece in MIT review: http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/22550/?a=f

Apparently a problem here is that the materials are very expensive. I must admit I wonder how expensive that could possibly be when an iPhone 4 basic materials already cost around £150 http://www.tuaw.com/2010/06/28/isuppli-iphone-4-parts-cost-187-51/

But this is a screen that would literally change shape. Another approach is a screen that fools the senses – a sort of haptic ghost. Here’s a very recent example: http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/08/11/electrotactile-arrays-texture-and-pressure-feedback-during-robotic-teleoperation

Combining one of these approaches in a smart phone or iPad would not only allow us to walk and text, but you can see a whole new vista of games on the horizon. Apple has already taken two excellent hardware bits - the touchscreen and the gyroscope and used them to create compelling apps and games. And one of the main applications of haptics is in training surgeons, so how long will it be before brain surgeons are being trained via haptic-feedback mobile phones?

You too can know how it feels to cut up all those little axons in the corpus callosum...

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About the author

Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

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