WRITER: LISA POGUE
CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Nov. 6, 2002
UI professor receives $333,225 NSF grant to continue simulation research
Geb Thomas, University of Iowa assistant professor of mechanical and industrial
engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering and researcher
at the Center for Computer-Aided Design, has been awarded $330,225 by the
National Science Foundation (NSF) for continued simulation research. Project
colleagues include Thomas, who serves as principle investigator, and co-principal
investigators Clark Stanford, professor in the UI College of Dentistry, and
Lynn Johnson of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
The research project, titled "Using Force Feedback Devices to Train
and Assess Recognition of Force Signals as a Component of Professional Skill,"
will develop and evaluate a haptic, or touch sensitive, simulator suitable
for training dental students. The simulator uses a computer to control a pen-shaped
handle, which operates like a three-dimensional computer mouse by moving a
cursor through a 3-D virtual reality field. When the computer graphics show
that the cursor controlled by the handle is running into the computer model
of the tooth, the handle resists any further motion in that direction, making
the tooth feel solid, says Thomas. Different control strategies can make the
tooth feel slippery, sticky, soft or hard.
Thomas says the primary design challenge involves the simulator's ability
to train dentists to elicit and recognize force signals, or the sensations
in a dentist's fingertips, that provide information about whether or not the
patient has a cavity, for example. The simulator will be developed around
the criterion of force signal fidelity and, ultimately, the project will compare
the performance of dentists trained with the simulator against those trained
using traditional methods. The project will make an important contribution
to the field of haptic simulation by suggesting a method to identify force
signals and by demonstrating a benefit to simulator training.
Thomas' special fields of knowledge and present research interests include
human/computer interface, robotics, virtual reality, and human factors. Thomas
joined the UI College of Engineering in 1997 after earning his doctorate in
industrial engineering at Penn State University in 1996.