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12 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | MARCH/APRIL 2014 WHY WE NEED MORE FIBER Y ou've heard of pilots learning to fy in virtual-reality environments. Now researchers are developing similar environments to train surgeons. Traditionally, surgeons in training start out by observing live surgery and gradually progress to assisting experienced surgeons; virtual-reality training may help them develop better skills faster. Engineering professors at Oklahoma State University and the University of Wisconsin are working on the Virtual Surgical Environment for Orthopedic Surgery (VSEOS), a collaborative distributed virtual environment in which medical students and licensed surgeons seeking to update their training will be able to hone their skills. In the VSEOS, an expert surgeon will use software on a centralized server to interact with students in multiple locations, explains J. Cecil, associate professor at the School of Industrial Engineering at Oklahoma State University. Te expert would give the students a scenario, ask them to go through the steps required to complete the scenario, and observe and correct students' progress. "Te creation of a virtual surgical environment will enable students to learn the appropriate way of managing various conditions with safety considerations to the residents and patients," says Cecil. In July 2013, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery approved the use of simulation training to improve surgical skills, and in late 2013, Cecil and his colleagues validated the VSEOS concept with several medical residents who used a prototype to simulate femur surgery. Following the training, those residents showed a signifcant jump in understanding compared with pretest levels. FEELING THE FORCE Te researchers are now working on creating a haptic interface. As Cecil explains, this will enable students to feel the force applied when, for example, they simulate drilling a hole in the femur. "Getting a feel of the forces adds to the sense of realism," he says. Institutions will be able to use any one of several VSEOS versions. "Te low-cost version can run on a PC with a good graphics card," comments Cecil. "More expensive versions will require 3D eyewear or stereo vision eyewear as well as a haptic device to touch and feel surfaces and objects within the virtual environment." Te VSEOS research is funded, in large part, by the National Science Foundation, which operates the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI) server on which the VSEOS software resides. Using a centralized server enables multiple locations to share the software and to utilize new Internet transport protocols that are currently under development. Te VSEOS platform can be delivered over more than one server for load balancing, explains Parmesh Ramanathan, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. To support this, software-defned- network capabilities residing on the GENI server are used to rewrite IP destination addresses dynamically. Researchers do not yet have an estimate of what the VSEOS might cost, but Cecil notes Learning Surgery Online Using ultra-high-speed connections, medical students will soon be able to hone their surgical skills in a virtual-reality environment. By Joan Engebretson / Broadband Communities BBC_Mar14.indd 12 3/14/14 2:45 PM