• The Implementation and Validation of a Virtual Environment for Training Powered Wheelchair Manoeuvres

      John, Nigel W.; Pop, Serban R.; Day, Thomas W.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; Headleand, Christopher J.; University of Chester; Bangor University; University of Lincoln (IEEE, 2017-05-02)
      Navigating a powered wheelchair and avoiding collisions is often a daunting task for new wheelchair users. It takes time and practice to gain the coordination needed to become a competent driver and this can be even more of a challenge for someone with a disability. We present a cost-effective virtual reality (VR) application that takes advantage of consumer level VR hardware. The system can be easily deployed in an assessment centre or for home use, and does not depend on a specialized high-end virtual environment such as a Powerwall or CAVE. This paper reviews previous work that has used virtual environments technology for training tasks, particularly wheelchair simulation. We then describe the implementation of our own system and the first validation study carried out using thirty three able bodied volunteers. The study results indicate that at a significance level of 5% then there is an improvement in driving skills from the use of our VR system. We thus have the potential to develop the competency of a wheelchair user whilst avoiding the risks inherent to training in the real world. However, the occurrence of cybersickness is a particular problem in this application that will need to be addressed.
    • An Information-Theoretic Approach to the Cost-benefit Analysis of Visualization in Virtual Environments

      Chen, Min; Gaither, Kelly; John, Nigel W.; McCann, Brian; University of Oxford; University of Texas at Austin; University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-08-20)
      Visualization and virtual environments (VEs) have been two interconnected parallel strands in visual computing for decades. Some VEs have been purposely developed for visualization applications, while many visualization applications are exemplary showcases in general-purpose VEs. Because of the development and operation costs of VEs, the majority of visualization applications in practice have yet to benefit from the capacity of VEs. In this paper, we examine this status quo from an information-theoretic perspective. Our objectives are to conduct cost-benefit analysis on typical VE systems (including augmented and mixed reality, theatre-based systems, and large powerwalls), to explain why some visualization applications benefit more from VEs than others, and to sketch out pathways for the future development of visualization applications in VEs. We support our theoretical propositions and analysis using theories and discoveries in the literature of cognitive sciences and the practical evidence reported in the literatures of visualization and VEs.
    • Interventional radiology virtual simulator for liver biopsy

      Villard, Pierre-Frédéric; Vidal, Franck P.; ap Cenydd, Llyr; Holbrey, Richard; Pisharody, S.; Johnson, Sheena; Bulpitt, Andy; John, Nigel W.; Bello, Fernando; Gould, Daniel (Springer, 2013-07-24)
      Training in Interventional Radiology currently uses the apprenticeship model, where clinical and technical skills of invasive procedures are learnt during practice in patients. This apprenticeship training method is increasingly limited by regulatory restrictions on working hours, concerns over patient risk through trainees' inexperience and the variable exposure to case mix and emergencies during training. To address this, we have developed a computer-based simulation of visceral needle puncture procedures. Methods A real-time framework has been built that includes: segmentation, physically based modelling, haptics rendering, pseudo-ultrasound generation and the concept of a physical mannequin. It is the result of a close collaboration between different universities, involving computer scientists, clinicians, clinical engineers and occupational psychologists. Results The technical implementation of the framework is a robust and real-time simulation environment combining a physical platform and an immersive computerized virtual environment. The face, content and construct validation have been previously assessed, showing the reliability and effectiveness of this framework, as well as its potential for teaching visceral needle puncture. Conclusion A simulator for ultrasound-guided liver biopsy has been developed. It includes functionalities and metrics extracted from cognitive task analysis. This framework can be useful during training, particularly given the known difficulties in gaining significant practice of core skills in patients.
    • Island Coalescence during Film Growth: An Underestimated Limitation of Cu ALD

      Hagen, Dirk J.; Connolly, James; Povey, Ian M.; Rushworth, Simon; Pemble, Martyn E. (Wiley, 2017-05-31)
    • Jazz on the border: Jazz and dance bands in Chester and North Wales in mid-twentieth century

      Southall, Helen; University of Chester (Equinox, 2013)
      There was a high degree of overlap between western popular music and jazz in the mid- twentieth century. However, histories of jazz and histories of popular music are often puzzlingly separate, as if divided by strict borders. This article looks at some of the rea- sons for this (including those proposed by Frith (2007) and Bennett (2013). The impor- tance of musical pathways and hidden histories (Becker 2002, 2004; Finnegan 2007; Nott 2002; Rogers 2013) in the context of local music scenes is considered. The importance of taking live music scenes and provincial areas into account when discussing genre his- tories is discussed, in the context of examples from an oral history study of dance-band musicians and promoters in the Chester (UK) area. These examples help to demonstrate that boundaries between jazz and popular music are frequently less abrupt in practice than they are in theory.
    • Learning to combine multiple string similarity metrics for effective toponym matching

      Santos, Rui; Murrieta-Flores, Patricia; Martins, Bruno (Informa UK Limited, 2017-09-06)
    • LiTu - A Human-Computer Interface based on Frustrated Internal Reflection of Light

      Edwards, Marc R.; John, Nigel W.; University of Chester (IEEE Conference Publications, 2015-10)
      We have designed LiTu (Laɪ’Tu - Light Tube) as a customisable and low-cost (ca 30 Euros) human-computer interface. It is composed of an acrylic tube, a ball-bearing mirror, six LEDs and a webcam. Touching the tube causes frustrated internal reflection of light due to a change in the critical angle at the acrylic-skin boundary. Scattered light within the tube is reflected off the mirror into the camera at the opposite end for image processing. Illuminated contact regions in the video frames are segmented and processed to generate 2D information such as: pitch and volume, or x and y coordinates of a graphic. We demonstrate the functionality of LiTu both as a musical instrument and as an interactive computer graphics controller. For example, various musical notes can be generated by touching specific regions around the surface of the tube. Volume can be controlled by sliding a finger down the tube and pitch by sliding the finger radially. We demonstrate the adaptable nature of LiTu’s touch interface and discuss our plans to explore future physical modifications of the device.
    • Mobile technology-enhanced asset maintenance in an SME

      Bankosz, Grzegorz S.; Kerins, John; University of Chester (Emerald, 2014)
      This article discusses the development of a prototype system to demonstrate the potential benefits of deploying mobile technology to enhance asset maintenance processes in a small food manufacturing plant.
    • Morphogenetic Engineering For Evolving Ant Colony Pheromone Communication

      Vaughan, Neil; University of Chester (The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation for Behaviour (AISB), 2018-04-06)
      This research investigates methods for evolving swarm communication in a simulated colony of ants using pheromone when foriaging for food. This research implemented neuroevolution and obtained the capability to learn pheromone communication autonomously. Building on previous literature on pheromone communication, this research applies evolution to adjust the topology and weights of an artificial neural network which controls the ant behaviour. Comparison of performance is made between a hard-coded benchmark algorithm, a fixed topology ANN and neuroevolution of the ANN topology and weights. The resulting neuroevolution produced a neural network which was successfully evolved to achieve the task objective, to collect food and return it to the nest.
    • Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Swarm Retrieval with Evolving Neural Network

      Vaughan, Neil; Royal Academy of Engineering; University of Chester (Springer-Verlag,, 2018-07-07)
      This research investigates methods for evolving swarm communica-tion in a sim-ulated colony of ants using pheromone when foriaging for food. This research implemented neuroevolution and obtained the capability to learn phero-mone communication autonomously. Building on previous literature on phero-mone communication, this research applies evolution to adjust the topology and weights of an artificial neural network (ANN) which controls the ant behaviour. Compar-ison of performance is made between a hard-coded benchmark algorithm (BM1), a fixed topology ANN and neuroevolution of the ANN topology and weights. The resulting neuroevolution produced a neural network which was suc-cessfully evolved to achieve the task objective, to collect food and return it to a location.
    • An overview of thermal necrosis: present and future

      Mediouni, M.; Kucklick, T.; Poncet, S.; Madiouni, R.; Abouaomar, A.; Madry, H.; Cucchiarini, M.; Chopko, B.; Vaughan, Neil; Arora, M.; et al. (Taylor & Francis, 2019-05-10)
      Introduction: Many orthopaedic procedures require drilling of bone, especially fracture repair cases. Bone drilling results in heat generation due to the friction between the bone and the drill bit. A high-level of heat generation kills bone cells. Bone cell death results in resorption of bone around bone screws. Materials and methods: We searched in the literature for data on parameters that influence drilling bone and could lead to thermal necrosis. The points of view of many orthopaedists and neurosurgeons based upon on previous practices and clinical experience are presented. Results: Several potential complications are discussed and highlighted that lead to thermal necrosis. Discussion: Even in the face of growing evidence as to the negative effects of heat-induction during drilling, simple and effective methods for monitoring and cooling in real-time are not in widespread usage today. For that purpose, we propose some suggestions for the future of bone drilling, taking note of recent advances in autonomous robotics, intelligent systems, and computer simulation techniques. Conclusions: These advances in prevention of thermal necrosis during bone drilling surgery are expected to reduce the risk of patient injury and costs for the health service.
    • Parametric model of human body shape and ligaments for patient-specific epidural simulation

      Vaughan, Neil; Dubey, Venketesh N.; Wee, Michael Y. K.; Isaacs, Richard; Bournemouth University; Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Elsevier, 2014-09-04)
      Objective: This work builds upon the concept of matching a person’s weight, height and age to their overall body shape to create an adjustable three-dimensional model. A versatile and accurate predictor of body size and shape and ligament thickness is required to improve simulation for medical procedures. A model which is adjustable for any size, shape, body mass, age or height would provide ability to simulate procedures on patients of various body compositions. Methods: Three methods are provided for estimating body circumferences and ligament thicknesses for each patient. The first method is using empirical relations from body shape and size. The second method is to load a dataset from a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) or ultrasound scan containing accurate ligament measurements. The third method is a developed artificial neural network (ANN) which uses MRI dataset as a training set and improves accuracy using error back-propagation, which learns to increase accuracy as more patient data is added. The ANN is trained and tested with clinical data from 23088 patients. Results: The ANN can predict subscapular skinfold thickness within 3.54mm, waist circumference 3.92cm, thigh circumference 2.00cm, arm circumference 1.21cm, calf circumference 1.40cm, triceps skinfold thickness 3.43mm. Alternative regression analysis method gave overall slightly less accurate predictions for subscapular skinfold thickness within 3.75mm, waist circumference 3.84cm, thigh circumference 2.16cm, arm circumference 1.34cm, calf circumference 1.46cm, triceps skinfold thickness 3.89mm. These calculations are used to display a 3D graphics model of the patient’s body shape using OpenGL and adjusted by 3D mesh deformations. Conclusions: A patient-specific epidural simulator is presented using the developed body shape model, able to simulate needle insertion procedures on a 3D model of any patient size and shape. The developed ANN gave the most accurate results for body shape, size and ligament thickness. The resulting simulator offers the experience of simulating needle insertions accurately whilst allowing for variation in patient body mass, height or age.
    • Quantification of the pressures generated during insertion of an epidural needle in labouring women of varying body mass indices

      Wee, M. Y. K.; Isaacs, R. A.; Vaughan, Neil; Dubey, V. N.; Parker, B.; University of Chester; Bournemouth University; Poole Hospital NHS Trust; West Hertfordshire NHS Trust; Southampton University Hospital (Heighten Science Publications, 2017-12-01)
      Objective: The primary aim of this study was to measure pressure generated on a Tuohy needle during the epidural procedure in labouring women of varying body mass indices (BMI) with a view of utilising the data for the future development of a high fi delity epidural simulator. High-fi delity epidural simulators have a role in improving training and safety but current simulators lack a realistic experience and can be improved. Methods: This study was approved by the National Research Ethics Service Committee South Central, Portsmouth (REC reference 11/SC/0196). After informed consent epidural needle insertion pressure was measured using a Portex 16-gauge Tuohy needle, loss-of-resistance syringe, a three-way tap, pressure transducer and a custom-designed wireless transmitter. This was performed in four groups of labouring women, stratified according to BMI kg/m2: 18-24.9; 25-34.9; 35-44.9 and >=45. One-way ANOVA was used to compare difference in needle insertion pressure between the BMI groups. A paired t-test was performed between BMI group 18-24.9 and the three other BMI groups. Ultrasound images of the lumbar spine were undertaken prior to the epidural procedure and lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed within 72h post-delivery. These images will be used in the development of a high fi delity epidural simulator. Results: The mean epidural needle insertion pressure of labouring women with BMI 18-24.9 was 461mmHg; BMI 25-34.9 was 430mmHg; BMI 35-44.9 was 415mmHg and BMI >=45 was 376mmHg, (p=0.52). Conclusion: Although statistically insignifi cant, the study did show a decreasing trend of epidural insertion pressure with increasing body mass indices.
    • Real-time Geometry-Aware Augmented Reality in Minimally Invasive Surgery

      Chen, Long; Tang, Wen; John, Nigel W.; Bournemouth University; University of Chester (IET, 2017-10-27)
      The potential of Augmented Reality (AR) technology to assist minimally invasive surgeries (MIS) lies in its computational performance and accuracy in dealing with challenging MIS scenes. Even with the latest hardware and software technologies, achieving both real-time and accurate augmented information overlay in MIS is still a formidable task. In this paper, we present a novel real-time AR framework for MIS that achieves interactive geometric aware augmented reality in endoscopic surgery with stereo views. Our framework tracks the movement of the endoscopic camera and simultaneously reconstructs a dense geometric mesh of the MIS scene. The movement of the camera is predicted by minimising the re-projection error to achieve a fast tracking performance, while the 3D mesh is incrementally built by a dense zero mean normalised cross correlation stereo matching method to improve the accuracy of the surface reconstruction. Our proposed system does not require any prior template or pre-operative scan and can infer the geometric information intra-operatively in real-time. With the geometric information available, our proposed AR framework is able to interactively add annotations, localisation of tumours and vessels, and measurement labelling with greater precision and accuracy compared with the state of the art approaches.
    • Real-Time Guidance and Anatomical Information by Image Projection onto Patients

      Edwards, Marc R.; Pop, Serban R.; John, Nigel W.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; Avis, Nick J.; University of Chester (Eurographics Association, 2016-09)
      The Image Projection onto Patients (IPoP) system is work in progress intended to assist medical practitioners perform procedures such as biopsies, or provide a novel anatomical education tool, by projecting anatomy and other relevant information from the operating room directly onto a patient’s skin. This approach is not currently used widely in hospitals but has the benefit of providing effective procedure guidance without the practitioner having to look away from the patient. Developmental work towards the alpha-phase of IPoP is presented including tracking methods for tools such as biopsy needles, patient tracking, image registration and problems encountered with the multi-mirror effect.
    • Recent Developments and Future Challenges in Medical Mixed Reality

      Chen, Long; Day, Thomas W.; Tang, Wen; John, Nigel W.; Bournemouth University and University of Chester (2017-10)
      Mixed Reality (MR) is of increasing interest within technology driven modern medicine but is not yet used in everyday practice. This situation is changing rapidly, however, and this paper explores the emergence of MR technology and the importance of its utility within medical applications. A classification of medical MR has been obtained by applying an unbiased text mining method to a database of 1,403 relevant research papers published over the last two decades. The classification results reveal a taxonomy for the development of medical MR research during this period as well as suggesting future trends. We then use the classification to analyse the technology and applications developed in the last five years. Our objective is to aid researchers to focus on the areas where technology advancements in medical MR are most needed, as well as providing medical practitioners with a useful source of reference.
    • Sketching Designs Using the Five Design-Sheet Methodology

      Roberts, Jonathan C.; Headleand, Christopher J.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; University of Bangor, University of Bangor, University of Chester (IEEE, 2016-01)
      Sketching designs has been shown to be a useful way of planning and considering alternative solutions. The use of lo-fidelity prototyping, especially paper-based sketching, can save time, money and converge to better solutions more quickly. However, this design process is often viewed to be too informal. Consequently users do not know how to manage their thoughts and ideas (to first think divergently, to then finally converge on a suitable solution). We present the Five Design Sheet (FdS) methodology. The methodology enables users to create information visualization interfaces through lo-fidelity methods. Users sketch and plan their ideas, helping them express different possibilities, think through these ideas to consider their potential effectiveness as solutions to the task (sheet 1); they create three principle designs (sheets 2,3 and 4); before converging on a final realization design that can then be implemented (sheet 5). In this article, we present (i) a review of the use of sketching as a planning method for visualization and the benefits of sketching, (ii) a detailed description of the Five Design Sheet (FdS) methodology, and (iii) an evaluation of the FdS using the System Usability Scale, along with a case-study of its use in industry and experience of its use in teaching.
    • SLAM-based dense surface reconstruction in monocular Minimally Invasive Surgery and its application to Augmented Reality

      Chen, Long; Tang, Wen; John, Nigel W.; Wan, Tao R.; Zhang, Jian J.; Bournemouth University; University of Chester; University of Bradford (Elsevier, 2018-02-08)
      Background and Objective While Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) offers considerable benefits to patients, it also imposes big challenges on a surgeon's performance due to well-known issues and restrictions associated with the field of view (FOV), hand-eye misalignment and disorientation, as well as the lack of stereoscopic depth perception in monocular endoscopy. Augmented Reality (AR) technology can help to overcome these limitations by augmenting the real scene with annotations, labels, tumour measurements or even a 3D reconstruction of anatomy structures at the target surgical locations. However, previous research attempts of using AR technology in monocular MIS surgical scenes have been mainly focused on the information overlay without addressing correct spatial calibrations, which could lead to incorrect localization of annotations and labels, and inaccurate depth cues and tumour measurements. In this paper, we present a novel intra-operative dense surface reconstruction framework that is capable of providing geometry information from only monocular MIS videos for geometry-aware AR applications such as site measurements and depth cues. We address a number of compelling issues in augmenting a scene for a monocular MIS environment, such as drifting and inaccurate planar mapping. Methods A state-of-the-art Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) algorithm used in robotics has been extended to deal with monocular MIS surgical scenes for reliable endoscopic camera tracking and salient point mapping. A robust global 3D surface reconstruction framework has been developed for building a dense surface using only unorganized sparse point clouds extracted from the SLAM. The 3D surface reconstruction framework employs the Moving Least Squares (MLS) smoothing algorithm and the Poisson surface reconstruction framework for real time processing of the point clouds data set. Finally, the 3D geometric information of the surgical scene allows better understanding and accurate placement AR augmentations based on a robust 3D calibration. Results We demonstrate the clinical relevance of our proposed system through two examples: a) measurement of the surface; b) depth cues in monocular endoscopy. The performance and accuracy evaluations of the proposed framework consist of two steps. First, we have created a computer-generated endoscopy simulation video to quantify the accuracy of the camera tracking by comparing the results of the video camera tracking with the recorded ground-truth camera trajectories. The accuracy of the surface reconstruction is assessed by evaluating the Root Mean Square Distance (RMSD) of surface vertices of the reconstructed mesh with that of the ground truth 3D models. An error of 1.24mm for the camera trajectories has been obtained and the RMSD for surface reconstruction is 2.54mm, which compare favourably with previous approaches. Second, in vivo laparoscopic videos are used to examine the quality of accurate AR based annotation and measurement, and the creation of depth cues. These results show the potential promise of our geometry-aware AR technology to be used in MIS surgical scenes. Conclusions The results show that the new framework is robust and accurate in dealing with challenging situations such as the rapid endoscopy camera movements in monocular MIS scenes. Both camera tracking and surface reconstruction based on a sparse point cloud are eff active and operated in real-time. This demonstrates the potential of our algorithm for accurate AR localization and depth augmentation with geometric cues and correct surface measurements in MIS with monocular endoscopes.
    • Stigmergic Interoperability for Autonomic Systems: Managing Complex Interactions in Multi-Manager Scenarios

      Eze, Thaddeus; Anthony, Richard; University of Chester; University of Greenwich (IEEE, 2016-09)
      The success of autonomic computing has led to its popular use in many application domains, leading to scenarios where multiple autonomic managers (AMs) coexist, but without adequate support for interoperability. This is evident, for example, in the increasing number of large datacentres with multiple managers which are independently designed. The increase in scale and size coupled with heterogeneity of services and platforms means that more AMs could be integrated to manage the arising complexity. This has led to the need for interoperability between AMs. Interoperability deals with how to manage multi-manager scenarios, to govern complex coexistence of managers and to arbitrate when conflicts arise. This paper presents an architecture-based stigmergic interoperability solution. The solution presented in this paper is based on the Trustworthy Autonomic Architecture (TAArch) and uses stigmergy (the means of indirect communication via the operating environment) to achieve indirect coordination among coexisting agents. Usually, in stigmergy-based coordination, agents may be aware of the existence of other agents. In the approach presented here in, agents (autonomic managers) do not need to be aware of the existence of others. Their design assumes that they are operating in 'isolation' and they simply respond to changes in the environment. Experimental results with a datacentre multi-manager scenario are used to analyse the proposed approach.
    • Swarm Communication by Evolutionary Algorithms

      Vaughan, Neil; University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-05-27)
      This research has applied evolutionary algorithms to evolve swarm communication. Controllers were evolved for colonies of artificial simulated ants during a food foriaging task which communicate using pheromone. Neuroevolution enables both weights and the topology of the artificial neural networks to be optimized for food foriaging. The developed model results in evolution of ants which communicate using pheromone trails. The ants successfully collect and return food to the nest. The controller has evolved to adjust the strength of pheromone which provides a signal to guide the direction of other ants in the colony by hill climbing strategy. A single ANN controller for ant direction successfully evolved which exhibits many separate skills including food search, pheromone following, food collection and retrieval to the nest.