Researchers at Temple University (Philadelphia, PA, USA) have created a prototype system that uses an imaging sensor to allow doctors to emulate human tactile sensation during a patient’s physical examination as well as quantify it.
“The human hands have an amazing ability to touch something and tell if it’s soft or hard, if it’s wet, or even its temperature. We’re trying to emulate this tactile sensation with a device that will actually quantify this by giving us the mechanical properties of what we are feeling,” said Chang-Hee Won, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Temple.
Won said the tactile imaging sensor could aid doctors while performing physical exams on patients by detecting the size and shape of a lesion or tumor, as well as its elasticity and mobility. Once a doctor feels a lesion, lump, or tumor, he or she can then use the device to actually characterize the mechanical properties of the irregularity that has been felt.
The portable tactile imaging sensor can be attached to any desktop or laptop computer that has a FireWire cable port. Equipped with four LED lights and a camera, the 4.5-in. device has a flexible transparent elastomer cube on the end, into which light is injected. The injected light is retained within the elastomer cube unless an intrusion from a lesion or tumor changes the contour of the elastomer’s surface, in which case the light will reflect out of the cube.
The sensor’s camera then captures the lesion or tumor images caused by the reflected light after which they are processed with a novel algorithm to calculate the lesion’s mechanical properties.
Won said that the device is noninvasive and can detect lumps or tumors up to 3 cm under the skin. In addition to being portable and noninvasive, the device is also inexpensive -- Won said the prototype cost approximately $500.
-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design