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Australian surgeons get virtually touchy-feely

Software that lets surgeons feel simulated body organs in virtual space is set to revolutionise the way medical professionals are trained in Australia.

Software that lets surgeons feel simulated body organs in virtual space is set to revolutionise the way medical professionals are trained in Australia.

AUSTRALIA (ZDNet Australia) - The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will announce its collaboration with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and WA-based MedicVision next week, which will see these training systems available to surgeons within the next year.

The system uses knowledge-based software developed by the CSIRO that produces three-dimensional computer models of body organs that can then be repaired - in rehearsed surgery - in virtual space.

The computer visualisation can simulate not only the look but the feel of organs and using CSIRO's Haptic Workbench, surgeons can interact with the three dimensional computer model through touch.

"We want to ensure that all surgeons in Australia have the highest possible skills," Dr Laurie Wilson, CSIRO's senior principal research scientist told ZDNet.

"The Haptic Workbench combines visual sense with the sense of touch and gives touch feedback that is remarkably realisitic."

Computer simulations of this kind will allow surgeons to be trained using a virtual anatomy, that can be dissected over and over again, in place of cadavers or animals.

The medical industry can expect to see simple systems of this kind available in Australia within the next year, Wilson said.

"These systems will never replace the wisdom and judgement of the experienced medical practioner," Wilson said. "They will work alongside clinicians reducing the tedium of some tasks, reducing the chance of errors, and increasing the standard of health care."