A novel actuated digit with tactile feedback for clinical applications
This thesis describes the work carried out on the development of a novel digit actuator system with tactile perception feedback to a user and demonstrated as a master-slave system. For the tactile surface of the digit, contrasting sensor elements of resistive strain gauges and optical fibre Bragg grating sensors were evaluated. A distributive tactile sensing system consisting of optimised neural networking schemes was developed, resulting in taxonomy of artificial touch. The device is suitable for use in minimal invasive surgical (MIS) procedures as a steerable tip and a digit constructed wholly from polymers makes it suitable for use in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) environments enabling active monitoring of the patient during a procedure. To provide a realistic template of the work the research responded to the needs of two contrasting procedures: palpation of the prostate and endotracheal intubation in anaesthesia where the application of touch sense can significantly assist navigation. The performance of the approach was demonstrated with an experimental digit constructed for use in the laboratory in phantom trials. The phantom unit was developed to resemble facets of the clinical applications and digit system is able to evaluate reactive force distributions acting over the surface of the digit as well as different descriptions of contact and motion relative to the surface of the lumen. Completing control of the digit is via an instrumented glove, such that the digit actuates in sympathy with finger gesture and tactile information feedback is achieved by a combination of the tactile and visual means.