Educational Games

Haptics for High-schools

Teaching physics in high-school can be challenging. Flinders has developed learning software that enables students to learn physics in a hands-on way, using the latest VR haptic technology. Concepts such as the difference between weight and mass can be taught by allowing students to feel the weight of objects under the gravity of different planets using virtual reality and the latest precise force-feedback (haptic) technology. As objects are moved into different parts of the screen, the gravity changes from the low gravity of the moon, through to the extreme gravity of Jupiter where the same mass weighs 3x the amount as here on Earth.


Video Games for Early Years Education

The education and subsequent application of new and complex concepts can be difficult to convey to young children.  One strategy successfully evidenced in many pedagogical approaches involves the use of apparatus and tools to abstract the concepts.  Flinders is seeking to utilise this proven education strategy by using the video game medium as the source of abstraction.  Using the Kodu Game Lab students are shown the fundamentals of programming and are encouraged to explore their creativity in designing 3D worlds they can populate, control and invest themselves in.  By looking at established strategies of software engineering young students are taught the process involved in the analysis of a larger problem into smaller manageable pieces.  The subsequent practices of synthesis then aid in their building a complete solution from the component parts.  Through this approach we begin to introduce topics ranging from large number facts through to area and volume measurements.

Video Games for English Language Education

Using game technologies Flinders are exploring the education of adult students learning the English language.  This approach hopes to identify common gaming paradigms across cultures that can then be exploited to assist in the education of English language.  Subjects would engage in a game environment that would allow them to explore and select options to progress through a known storyline.  This game would provide the student with a participatory form of entertainment, allowing them to direct their own education and reinforce concepts as needed. This is also any area where we are employing our Teaching Head , both to teach English as a Foreign Language (PETA), and to teach literacy and numeracy skills to indigenous Australians (VALIANT), and further afield to teach social skills to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (AVAST), whilst we are currently exploring what different skills can be taught to children with Hearing Impairment, or their parents – including social skills, lip-reading, and signing.

Haptic Games for Medical Training

Sinus Sim: VR Haptic Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

There is evidence to suggest that endoscopic surgical trainees benefit from opportunities to develop manual skills prior to operating on real patients. Computer based virtual reality simulation can provide access to virtually unlimited numbers of simulated patients and scenarios. Until recently however, the available technology has limited the realism of the key interactions; realistic simulated tissues that can be cut and touched using precision force feedback (haptic) devices have not been available.

A surgical simulation’s effectiveness is determined by its ability to accurately reproduce key interactions. Here we focus on accurately simulating the interaction of the surgeon with the sinus tissues via a number of common surgical instruments.

We have successfully developed a new computer based training tool for practising ESS that provides a risk free environment to practice and develop core skills and, once completed, will be of great value to  trainees from Australasia and overseas. The novel use of customised precision force feedback (haptic) devices enables trainees to use movements that closely mimic those used during the actual procedure, which should improve learning, retention and recall.

Simulated                                                         Real

Interactive real-time cut-able soft-tissue simulation using the GPU (graphics processing unit).

Eight accurate 3D models of surgical instruments have been created and can be used within the simulation. Users are free to interact (touch, push, pull, and volumetrically remove tissue) from any part of the detailed sinus model.

Throat Examination Simulation

The VR simulator is a novel demonstration of mature technology. It is useful as a stand-alone  simulator for teaching and assessment but can be developed for other clinical skill which would make it a cost-effective platform. The system has been designed to make inclusion of new images of throat pathology relatively straight forward so that a large library of cases can be developed.

Tonsil Sim – VR Haptic Ablation Tonsillectomy Simulation

Subtotal tonsillectomy or intracapsular “tonsillotomy” is increasingly being used as a safer and less morbid intervention for sleep disordered breathing due to adenotonsillar hyperplasia. Several studies  have now shown its benefits over traditional tonsillectomy in terms of reducing postoperative pain and a faster return to normal diet. The technique is completely different to that of traditional dissection tonsillectomy and few surgeons have experience in the technique. The technique is dependent on a surgeon removing most of the tonsil tissue but being aware of the approaching capsule, by a combination of identifying the slower dissection speed and recognition of the firmer tissue. If the capsule is breached, then muscle is exposed with increased post-operative pain and bleeding risk. The benefits of the subtotal approach are then negated. Hence, a haptic simulator would be ideal to train both specialist and junior surgeons in this new technique.

We have successfully produced a prototype virtual reality haptic simulator for subtotal tonsillectomy. The simulator provides a risk free environment for surgeons to practice subtotal tonsillectomy using a surgical handpiece. Early feedback suggests that tactile feedback improves learning and thereby reduces the learning curve normally encountered during development of expert proficiency. Other ENT techniques could also be taught using this computer methodology. Simulators are now becoming acceptable as a method of effective surgical teaching and can potentially set similar standards to those used in the aviation industries.

ISim: VR Haptic Endotracheal Intubation Simulation

ISim is a haptic virtual reality based simulator to help training of endotracheal intubation. Current training relies on manikins and volunteer patients to provide sufficient breadth of experience to trainees. However, when a trainee is faced with a patient whose anatomy varied from what he has ever met, the trainee is often unable to intubate. ISim can provide different airway models to help trainees gain experience, and thus reduces the medical error.

Skull Jigsaw/Anatomical Lego: VR Anatomy Trainer

Comprehension of complex anatomical structures and their biomechanical behaviour is difficult from traditional media (books & 2D graphics). Expert tutoring is required to give students sufficient understanding, and this is typically done using human cadavers and skeletons. Hands-on exploration of structures and their interactions facilitates faster learning of anatomy [4]. However, cadavers and expert tutors may not always be accessible, particularly at times and places outside formal anatomy classes, or in environments where there is no access to appropriate material. This project aims to provide a substitute for hands-on learning of anatomy via accurate 3D models in a virtual reality application where the user can manipulate parts of a human skull. Control of the position and orientation of parts is provided using a Sensable Phantom Omni (6DOF) input device.

Anatomical structures can be identified, manipulated and accurately located in virtual 3D space.

This approach has the advantage of encouraging and rewarding understanding through exploration of anatomical structures using a method of manipulation that closely resembles that used for real objects.


Training Games

Often games are used for training in a physical instead of or as well as a mental sense.  The well known exercise programs and sports simulations for popular game machines are examples, as are the haptic training games for medical students and surgeons that we have just looked at, but at the other end of the physicality spectrum are examples for professional training in elite sports or in a military context, whilst somewhere in between is the retraining of capabilities that have been lost due to an injury or a medical condition.

Shopping Sim: VR Stroke Patient Rehabilitation Game

The use of virtual reality technology for stroke rehabilitation is a relatively new concept. Engaging stroke survivors with virtual tasks similar to real world tasks has potential benefits for retraining abilities to perform activities of daily living within a safe and controlled environment. The development of a shopping simulator specifically designed for cognitive stroke rehabilitation is described.
A shopping scenario is also used in our Teaching Head 'VALIANT' application for training indigenous Australians in fundamental numeracy skills.


Pervasive Games

Pervasive gaming utilises the subject’s position as an input into the game.  With the convergence of technologies now evident in the mobile devices we carry in our pockets these types of pervasive games are seeing a greater distribution.  While the idea of the entertainment of these games is an interesting concept to explore Flinders researchers are looking at this technology for other everyday purposes.  By using the idea behind pervasive gaming we propose the use of such a system as a means of scheduling someone’s daily appointments.  With the example of a typical tertiary student we are looking at the use of real world geographic coordinates for the planting and harvesting of resources around the locations of their study timetable.  A student would plant a resource by their lecture theatre and would then be able to come back and harvest their crop a week later (at the same time as their next lecture).  The resources are used to maintain a virtual pet that will become ill without an appropriate amount of nourishment.  It is hoped that this sort of activity could encourage attendance and maintaining of appointments for those using the game.

A growing concern with pervasive gaming and location tracking social networking applications is the privacy of an individual’s information.  Flinders are looking at the privacy issues associated with pervasive gaming and user’s perceptions of the security of their information and daily schedule.  If you were playing a pervasive game that required you to attend a certain location at a specific time how comfortable would you be with other gamers having access to this information?  What sort of protection mechanisms are needed to maintain users privacy?

For More Information...

For more information on our Haptics research and Medical Simulations, please contact Dr Greg Ruthenbeck, or for more information on Games and Simulation research and projects, or if you're interested in joining the group, please contact Dr Brett Wilkinson.