Development and testing of a tactile feedback system for robotic surgery.
A tactile feedback system has been developed using silicone-based pneumatic balloon actuators and piezoelectric force sensors, paired with a pneumatic control system. This system has been fitted directly onto the da Vinci surgical robotic system, allowing the forces applied at the robotic end-effectors to be felt on the fingers of surgeons or other system operators. Preliminary system tests have been performed to evaluate the efficacy of the system and to validate the tactile feedback approach. The actuators and pneumatic system had a sufficiently low footprint such that they did not hinder movements during surgical task performance. Preliminary studies using a pressure-indicating phantom suggested that grip force may be reduced with direct tactile-to-tactile feedback. An additional study found that a six element tactile sensing array can effectively provide spatial information to the fingers. The results of these studies are summarized in this paper.