The Right Touch
Think human-computer interface. You probably see icons and the glow of a computer screen. But Tim Salcudean sees it differently. He sees a virtual world full of movement and touch.
Salcudean is a world-leading expert in haptic interfaces. These interfaces allow computer users to feel and apply the forces of interaction while manipulating remote or virtual environments. The newly appointed Canada Research Chair in Intelligent Computer Interface Design at the University of British Columbia is researching the application of haptic computer interface systems to surgery and medical diagnosis and the remote operation of machinery in forestry and mining. In 1990, he made international headlines when, for the first time ever, he enabled scientists to feel atom-scale surface features. In 1997, he also received media attention for a vibration isolation device that he co-developed with Canadian astronaut Bjarni Truggvason. The device enabled scientific experiments to be carried out on the Space Shuttle and may also be used on the International Space Station.
Salcudean's latest research is a continuation of this extensive track record of putting technical innovations to work. In collaboration with UBC colleagues, he will continue R&D to create a multi-modal user interface-using sight, touch and sound-for robot-assisted medical ultrasound that could one day be used in hospitals and clinics all across Canada. Many ultrasound technicians currently suffer repetitive strain injuries in the course of their work. The robotic system will not only alleviate this, but will also allow for more precise and repeatable examinations and for ultrasound image-guided interventions.
In addition, Salcudean has shown himself to be a prodigious graduate student supervisor. Over the past ten years at UBC, he has supervised 30 Masters and Ph.D. students, as well as several post-doctoral researchers. The Canada Research Chair position will not only allow Salcudean to continue his exciting work to the benefit of the Canadian medical community and the technology sector, it will also act as a further magnet to attract students from around the world to UBC.