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A patient would contract surface muscles as a reaction called muscle guarding when experiencing discomfort and pain during physical palpation. This reaction carries important information about an affected location. Training physicians to regulate palpation forces to elicit just enough muscle tension is a challenge using real patients. Tunable stiffness mechanisms enabled by soft robotics can be effectively integrated into medical simulator designs for effective clinical education. In this paper, we propose a controllable stiffness muscle layer to simulate guarding for abdominal palpation training. Designs with soft, fine, and rigid granular jamming, stretchable and non-stretchable layer jamming mechanisms were tested and evaluated as methods to create controllable stiffness muscle. User studies have been carried out on 10 naive participants to differentiate the tense and relaxed abdomen with the proposed jamming mechanisms. Muscle samples made of ground coffee (fine granular jamming) and latex layers (stretchable layer jamming) show good usability in simulating abdomen with different stiffness with at least 75% of the user data exhibits more than 70% of decision accuracy for both tested palpation gestures (single finger and multiple fingers) after short pretraining.

Original publication




Conference paper

Publication Date





12588 - 12594