Virtual reality meets surgical precision: SOniCS revolutionises training simulations

  • Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine (FSTM)
    13 October 2023
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Engineers from the University of Luxembourg and the French Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (INRIA) have unveiled a groundbreaking tool for developing surgical training simulations. The SOniCS (SOFA + FEniCS) plugin, recently published in the journal Engineering with Computers, combines two simulation models to offer an intuitive and efficient approach to biomechanics.

The focus on virtual reality, real-time simulation, augmented reality, personalised medicine, error control, and intuitive understanding makes SOniCS a game-changer. Unlike traditional simulation software, SOniCS allows users to experiment with model choices effortlessly, requiring minimal expertise. It enables the development of surrogate models and the training of machine-learning algorithms for real-time patient-specific simulations.

Prof. Stéphane Bordas, Head of the Doctoral Programme for Complex Systems Science, emphasises that SOniCS is the fruit of 17 years of research efforts, with results stemming from ERC RealTCut and ITN MSCA RAINBOW. He highlights that the plugin not only facilitates surgical training simulations but also enhances users’ intuition of biomechanical systems. The plugin achieves machine precision accuracy, and crucially, the methods are error-controlled, guaranteeing a high accuracy level in the solution of the problem.

Looking ahead, the next steps involve accounting for patient-specific material models using real-time acquired data for model updating. This dynamic approach promises to further enhance the accuracy and applicability of SOniCS in addressing the unique biomechanical characteristics of individual patients.

The challenges in developing efficient finite-element simulation software for medical contexts are numerous. Living organ properties, simulation complexity, uncertainty, real-time requirements, user interaction, and visualisation must all be considered. SOniCS addresses these challenges by seamlessly combining the strengths of the SOFA and FEniCS platforms.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of surgical simulation, SOniCS stands out as a versatile tool that aligns with the demands of precision, real-time responsiveness, and user interaction. This innovation, born out of 17 years of dedicated research, opens new possibilities for training simulations, personalised medicine, and advancing our understanding of complex biomechanical systems.

The collaboration between the University of Luxembourg and INRIA, supported by ERC RealTCut and ITN MSCA RAINBOW, marks a significant step toward bridging the gap between virtual reality and surgical precision, ultimately contributing to the advancement of medical training and patient-specific simulations.

Publication: “Sonics: develop intuition on biomechanical systems through interactive error controlled simulations“, Engineering with Computers, September 2023