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Dental educators launch a global VR-Haptic Thinkers consortium

To support the evidence-based use of virtual reality combined with haptic feedback technology in dental education, a global VR-Haptic Thinkers consortium was launched in a virtual assembly hosted by the Institute of Dentistry, University of Eastern Finland, on 8 February 2024. 

The consortium consists of 20 VR-Haptic Thinkers niches from America, Australia, Latin America, Europe and Japan, and partners with educational institutions and industrial companies from around the world. The activities of the consortium focus on five major areas, including performing cross-border cutting-edge educational research; providing support for developing VR-Haptic niches; promoting VR-Haptic supported curriculum development; disseminating data via free, hybrid meetups; and deepening the discussion between academics and industry. The next global meetup will be held in June 2024.

The consortium is led by an executive board with Professor Barry Quinn from the University of Liverpool as the President and Associate Professor Ali Shazib from High Point University, Professor Amitha Ranauta from Queen Mary University of London, Associate Professor Samatha Bryne from the University of Melbourne, Professor Katalin Nagy from University of Szeged, Professor David Morton from the University of Utah, as well as Professor Murat Mutluay and University Teacher, Docent, Dr. habil. Szabolcs Felszeghy from the University of Eastern Finland as executive members.

In the interview below, Mutluay and Felszeghy, who hosted the first VR-Haptic Thinkers Meetup at UEF last year, share their motivations and experiences.

What brought up your interest in VR-haptics and the creation of VR-Haptic Thinkers?

MM: “In 2021, Finland’s first VR-haptic Simodont® Dental Trainers (Nissin) were installed here at the University of Eastern Finland. After getting the equipment, we immediately decided to begin researching their use. We introduced several VR-haptics-supported dental sessions in our preclinical dental courses and, encouraged by the results, are now introducing this supportive training method in our clinical courses, as well.” 

SF: “We had a few people who were particularly interested in the implementation of this new technology at the Institute of Dentistry. Once we confirmed that we wanted to research and develop this teaching method further, VR-Haptic Thinkers were born. I think our commitment and willingness to embrace new ideas are our biggest strengths. We are striving to stay honest and transparent in all our educational actions using the VR-haptic trainers, so we can build stronger relationships with dental students and guide them to higher levels of performance.” 

What’s your take on why the first ever VR-Haptic Meetup managed to get such widespread interest among the dental educators around the world?

MM: “With the support of UEF, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), and the Association for Dental Education in Europe (ADEE), we hosted the first International VR-Haptic Thinkers Meetup in November 2023, which attracted over 200 global registrants. I believe the main reason behind the success of the meetup was that it was the first global conference with a core focus on VR-haptics-supplemented dental education.”

“We’ve been facing rapid technological advancement in recent years, and clearly many people have gained an interest in updating their knowledge on potential new educational methods. Of course, many of the attendees already had experience in the use of VR-haptics in teaching and were seeking news on the latest advancements in its research. Importantly, the meetup was free to join and both online and on-site discussion platforms were available. The keynote speakers were all high-level experts. The lectures were recorded and are freely available at

What was your vision when you organised the VR-Haptic Thinkers Meetup in Kuopio? Why was it important to get organised globally?

SF: “After lecturing at the ADEE 2023 conference in Liverpool, I was thinking about the potential of a free hybrid conference to spread the transformative potential of VR-haptic trainers in reshaping dental curricula, tackling challenges, and fostering collaboration. Our team envisioned a world where we would not only survive but thrive amidst the rapid changes in VR-haptic technological space.”

“With Professor Barry Quinn as the President, we aim to promote cross-border research and to organise free hybrid meetups around the world yearly. The primary objective of the consortium is to provide dental educators with information to help them establish frameworks and best practices for dental graduate training within VR-haptic environments. Moreover, academics and industry should work together in this area. Companies need research-based input to improve their products for dental education and training. This interaction is highly important, and companies are probably more willing to listen to a global consortium than just individual institutions.” 

Why is a global overview on VR-haptics-supported dental education important? What does your first global project entail in practice?

MM: “A global overview of VR-haptic dental education and training should enable educators and students alike to better understand the usefulness of VR-haptics, adapt to its use, mitigate the potential impact of its unfamiliarity, and further improve it as an educational tool. We are focused on preparing dental educators to achieve more sustainable ways to train dental undergraduates with new technologies, including VR-haptics. It encompasses adopting supportive practices – as in improving students’ learning outcomes and increasing their self-confidence – as well as using VR-haptic devices for real-time, more objective performance analysis.” 

“Led by these ideas and at the time of this interview supported by 21 different institutions from Australia, Europe, Japan, Latin America and USA, we are about to launch a large cross-border evidence-based research project to be carried out in 2024. We seek to learn about the backgrounds of dental educators who utilise VR-haptics in their work and to determine which case types are most commonly used in preclinical and clinical courses. We also seek to analyse the experiences and feelings of  “handpiece-naïve” students on the use of Simodont® and Dente® VR-haptic dental trainers. During the project, 1,000 students from all around the world will have the chance to voluntarily and anonymously test an educational VR-haptic platform.” 

“Establishing best practices to address the challenges in VR-haptic dental training will be essential to furthering this rapidly growing field of global dental education.”

What else lies in the future for VR-Haptic Thinkers?

SF: “VR-Haptic Thinkers are only just getting started! Our global team will continue to dream and do cross-border research, while working towards holding more free-to-join hybrid meetups! The VR-Haptic Thinkers Meetup 2024 will be held at the School of Dentistry, University of Utah, on 7 June 2024.  In 2025, the VR-Haptic Thinkers consortium will join the annual assembly of the odontology group of the Royal Society of Medicine to be held in London in June 2025. .”

“We express our sincere gratitude to all our great collaborators. Their invaluable support and contributions have enabled us to build a global consortium which will significantly enrich the overall teaching experience for the dental educator communities around the world.”

“For more information on the institutions who have joined us and on the Executive Board, please see and the Executive board page.”