Using the PhysX engine for physics-based virtual surgery with force feedback

Anderson Maciel, Tansel Halic, Zhonghua Lu, Luciana P. Nedel, Suvranu De
Instituto de Informatica, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
The International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery, Vol. 5, No. 3. (2009), pp. 341-353.


   title={Using the PhysX engine for physics-based virtual surgery with force feedback},

   author={Maciel, A. and Halic, T. and Lu, Z. and Nedel, L.P. and De, S.},

   journal={The International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery},





   publisher={Wiley Online Library}


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BACKGROUND: The development of modern surgical simulators is highly challenging, as they must support complex simulation environments. The demand for higher realism in such simulators has driven researchers to adopt physics-based models, which are computationally very demanding. This poses a major problem, since real-time interactions must permit graphical updates of 30 Hz and a much higher rate of 1 kHz for force feedback (haptics). Recently several physics engines have been developed which offer multi-physics simulation capabilities, including rigid and deformable bodies, cloth and fluids. While such physics engines provide unique opportunities for the development of surgical simulators, their higher latencies, compared to what is necessary for real-time graphics and haptics, offer significant barriers to their use in interactive simulation environments. METHODS: In this work, we propose solutions to this problem and demonstrate how a multimodal surgical simulation environment may be developed based on NVIDIA’s PhysX physics library. Hence, models that are undergoing relatively low-frequency updates in PhysX can exist in an environment that demands much higher frequency updates for haptics. We use a collision handling layer to interface between the physical response provided by PhysX and the haptic rendering device to provide both real-time tissue response and force feedback. RESULTS: Our simulator integrates a bimanual haptic interface for force feedback and per-pixel shaders for graphics realism in real time. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, we present the simulation of the laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) procedure as a case study. CONCLUSIONS: To develop complex and realistic surgical trainers with realistic organ geometries and tissue properties demands stable physics-based deformation methods, which are not always compatible with the interaction level required for such trainers. We have shown that combining different modelling strategies for behaviour, collision and graphics is possible and desirable. Such multimodal environments enable suitable rates to simulate the major steps of the LAGB procedure.
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