BeatBox: A Novel Device For More Realistic Pulse Simulation

Project Overview

The ability to measure pulse strength in various regions of the body is important in the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions. One such condition is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), which affects 8-12 million people in the US. It is characterized by narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the arms and legs, which, left untreated, can lead to amputation. The simplest way to diagnose PAD is to measure the strength of the pulse in the foot, known as the pedal pulse, which often is harder to detect than pulses in the upper extremities.Current patient simulators do not realistically simulate pedal pulses – they have a detectable popping sound and visible skin motion, which impairs training the subtleties of pedal pulses that indicate conditions like PAD. We sought to develop a device to realistically mimic the sensation of pedal pulses (both strength and rate) when felt through the fingertips, in order to train medical practitioners’ haptic skills for palpation.

Detection of dorsalis pedis pulse. Image Source: for-the-Dorsalis-Pedis-pulse.jpg

Solution: The BeatBox

We created a portable trainer to simulate pulses. Its universal shape (not a foot) and blue “skin” are purposeful, and allow students to focus on feeling the pulse rather than the visuals of simulators. The system is controled via an iPhone app, the instructor can control the trainer from another room.


We evaluated the BeatBox with the help of our clinician-mentor, Dr. Linda Honan, and her colleague, Dr. Deborah Fahs. Both are professors at the Yale School of Nursing. We calibrated the pulse strength, pulse rate, temperature and pressure required to feel the pulse. Their perceptions were used to calibrate realistic bounds in our software (for example, for a strong, weak, or normal pulse). Compared to full body simulators currently available, the pulse varies in a biologically realistic range of pulse strength. We also tested the device with a transplant surgeon, who found it realistic.

“It is a life-like credible pulsation which thus far is missing in simulators. I can’t wait to test it [with my students]!” -Dr. Linda Honan, Yale School of Nursing


We brought the BeatBox to two conferences in April 2016, the Haptics Symposium in Philadelphia and the Design of Medical Devices Conference in Minneapolis.

Haptics Symposium: Work-in-Progress paper, “Pulsimulate: a Novel Device for More Realistic Pulse Simulation.” I presented in an interactive poster session.

Design of Medical Devices Conference Student Design Showcase: “BeatBox: a Novel Device for More Realistic Pulse Simulation.” Presented in poster session (by my teammates).