Active vs Passive Haptic Feedback Technology in Virtual Reality Arthroscopy Simulation: Which is Most Realistic?

AuthorVaghela KR, Trockels A, Carobene M.


Virtual Reality (VR) simulators are playing an increasingly prominent role in orthopaedic training and education. Face-validity - the degree to which reality is accurately represented - underpins the value of a VR simulator as a learning tool for trainees. Despite the importance of tactile feedback in arthroscopy, there is a paucity for evidence regarding the role of haptics in VR arthroscopy simulator realism.


To assess the difference in face validity between two high fidelity VR simulators employing passive and active haptic feedback technology respectively.


38 participants were recruited and divided into intermediate and expert groups based on orthopaedic training grade. Each participant completed a 12-point diagnostic knee arthroscopy VR module using the active haptic Simbionix ARTHRO Mentor and passive haptic VirtaMed ArthroS simulators. Subsequently, each participant completed a validated simulator face validity questionnaire.


The ARTHRO Mentor active haptic system failed to achieve face validity with mean scores for external appearance (6.61), intra-articular appearance (4.78) and instrumentation (4.36) falling below the acceptable threshold (≥7.0). The ArthroS passive haptic simulator demonstrated satisfactory scores in all domains: external appearance (8.42), intra-articular appearance (7.65), instrumentation (7.21) and was significantly (p < 0.001) more realistic than ARTHRO Mentor for all metrics. 61% of participants gave scores ≥7.0 for questions pertaining to haptic feedback realism from intra-articular structures such as menisci and ACL/PCL for the ArthroS vs. 12% for ARTHRO Mentor. There was no difference in face-validity perception between intermediate and expert groups for either simulator (p > 0.05).


Current active haptic technology which employs motors to simulate tactile feedback fails to demonstrate sufficient face-validity or match the sophistication of passive haptic systems in high fidelity arthroscopy simulators. Textured rubber phantoms that mirror the anatomy and haptic properties of the knee joint provide a significantly more realistic training experience for both intermediate and expert arthroscopists.