Simulators have been traditionally used for centuries during medical gestures training. Nowadays, mechatronic technologies have opened the way to more evolved solutions enabling objective assessment and dedicated pedagogic scenarios. Trainees can now practice in virtual environments representing various kind of patient and body parts including physio-pathologies issues. Gestures, to be mastered, vary according to each medical specialty (e.g., ultrasound probe orientations, or forceps installation during assisted delivery). Hence, medical students need kinesthetic feedback in order to significantly improve their learning capabilities. Gesture simulators require haptic devices with variable stiffness actuators. Existing solutions do not always fit the requirements because of their significant size. Contrary to electric actuators, pneumatic technology is low-cost, available off-the-shelf and offers a better mass–power ratio. However, it presents two main drawbacks: nonlinear dynamics and need for a compressed air supply. During the last decade, we have developed several haptic solutions based on pneumatic actuation (e.g., birth simulator, epidural needle insertion simulator) and, recently, in a joint venture with Prisme laboratory, a pneumatic probe master device for remote ultrasonography. This paper recalls literature scientific approaches on pneumatic actuation developed in the medical context and illustrated with the aforementioned applications to highlight the benefits.
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