Dr. Patel was well aware of Quanser, experts in control systems design. For this research, he was interested in their haptic technology such as the 5 DOF Haptic Wand, an off-the-shelf Quanser solution for research in haptics. But he was also interested in the minds behind these inventions. He approached Quanser to see if they “would be interested in participating in this research.” They were. Immediately!
Funding: They named the project, “Haptics in Minimal Invasive Surgery” and Quanser provided part of the funding. Together they solicited further funds from the federal and provincial agencies. One of Quanser’s key strengths is their eagerness to partner with academics for research. The team regularly pitches for and wins grant money for research. Dr. Patel recounts how the project “was funded jointly by Quanser, OCE and NSERC Collaborative Research and Development Programs.”
Research and technology: With the new funds and a team of researchers, Dr. Patel was excited to begin research. “We acquired two haptic devices from Quanser which we converted to seven degrees of freedom devices.”Why as many as seven? “We added one or two extra degrees of freedom because that’s what we needed in order to provide the dexterity required for surgical robotics.” A patent has been filed for this innovation.
These two 7 DOF devices have been interfaced to two 7 DOF robotic systems carrying dexterous surgical tools instrumented for force sensing. This setup enables the team to experimentally “test the effect of not just position feedback, but also force-feedback and haptic interaction.”
From the beginning, Dr. Patel was delighted with the quality of participation he received from engineers at Quanser. “The engineers helped us in terms of developing a mathematical model of the haptic wand. That information was provided to us and we used the model to work out the details of the control system for the master-slave haptics-enabled robotic system.”
That help was especially appreciated when Dr. Patel’s team decided to replace their C-language environment with Quanser’s QUARC® software that supports MATLAB® and Simulink® to work more efficiently and productively in a real-time environment. With QUARC the team finds it “much easier to develop haptic applications. We can incorporate QUARC with MATLAB/Simulink. Most of the research development that we do is in MATLAB. To be able to transfer that almost immediately to the actual experimental environment is very, very useful.”
A gracious partner, Dr. Patel was pleased with Quanser’s participation at all levels. Yes, Dr. Patel was able to get easy access to senior members of the Quanser team but access didn’t stop there. “My students would send an email in case there is difficulty and they get a very quick response. That kind of relationship is essential for successful research.”