An Abdominal Phantom with Tunable Stiffness Nodules and Force Sensing Capability for Palpation Training
Robotic phantoms enable advanced physical examination training before using human patients. In this paper, we present an abdominal phantom for palpation training with controllable stiffness liver nodules that can also sense palpation forces. The coupled sensing and actuation approach is achieved by pneumatic control of positive-granular jammed nodules for tunable stiffness. Soft sensing is done using the variation of internal pressure of the nodules under external forces. This paper makes original contributions to extend the linear region of the neo-Hookean characteristic of the mechanical behavior of the nodules by 140% compared to no-jamming conditions and to propose a method using the organ level controllable nodules as sensors to estimate palpation position and force with a root-means-quare error (RMSE) of 4% and 6.5%, respectively. Compared to conventional soft sensors, the method allows the phantom to sense with no interference to the simulated physiological conditions when providing quantified feedback to trainees, and to enable training following current bare-hand examination protocols without the need to wear data gloves to collect data.