Cristian Luciano Wins Fellowship to Design Virtual Reality Dentistry Simulator

Participants: Cristian J. Luciano

Chicago, IL

Copyright University of Illinois Office of Public Affairs.

University of Illinois at Chicago graduate student Cristian Luciano, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science, has been awarded one of four Advanced Simulation and Training Fellowships this year by the Link Foundation, named for the late Edwin and Marion Link. Edwin Link is best known for inventing the first successful flight simulator back in 1929.

In the 13-year history of the fellowship, Luciano is the first student at an Illinois university to win one. The fellowship includes a grant of $25,000.

Luciano, a native of Argentina, is working with researchers in the UIC College of Dentistry and in mechanical and industrial engineering and computer science departments to create a haptics-based dental procedure training simulator. The device will allow dental students to learn techniques in virtual environments displayed through haptics, or the sense of touch. Once perfected, this simulator should lessen the need for dental students to practice on mannequins, lab animals or human patients.

“This time-consuming teaching process requires much one-on-one instructor / student interaction,” said Luciano. “Simulation programs have greatly improved during the past few years with the introduction of new technologies such as haptics and robotics.”

Luciano is designing his simulator so that dental students can use a variety of virtual dental instruments to learn the feel of what’s normal or abnormal when probing around teeth and gingival tissue. But the “feeling” will all be computer-generated.

“The student will be able to select and feel a variety of textures and apply them to a virtual object’s surface,” Luciano said. Specific textures can be applied to a root surface to simulate calculus, caries, restorative overhangs, soft tissue penetration, or a clean root surface.

“The student will depend entirely upon tactile sensation to learn what is being felt in real scenarios.”

Luciano’s dental simulator is being planned for use on a device developed by UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory called the PARIS - an acronym for Personal Augmented Reality Immersive System. PARIS will allow dental students to both feel and view their virtual dental work with three-dimensional realism.

“Users are able to experience various touch sensations while using a probe in a virtual reality environment,” said Pat Banerjee, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and one of Luciano’s advisers.

Luciano also works with Tom De Fanti, distinguished professor of computer science and director of the EVL.

“One of the uniquely important missions of state-supported universities is training the next generation of dentists,” said De Fanti. “We are very proud that Cristian Luciano is devoting his fellowship work here to creating advanced computer-based training materials for dental students using virtual reality and touch / feel built by UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory.”

Luciano earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional, Argentina and a master’s degree in industrial engineering at UIC. He expects to receive his Ph.D. in 2005. His work has been supported by two Fulbright fellowships.


Date: May 1, 2004
C. J. Luciano - C. J. Luciano, MIE

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