Recent advances in haptic hardware and software technology have generated interest in novel, multimodal interfaces based on the sense of touch. Such interfaces have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about humancomputer interaction and open new possibilities for simulation and training in a variety of fields. In this paper we review several frameworks, APIs and toolkits for haptic user interface development. We explore these software components focusing on minimally invasive surgical simulation systems. In the area of medical diagnosis, there is a strong need to determine mechanical properties of biological tissue for both histological and pathological considerations. Therefore we focus on the development of affordable visuo-haptic simulators to improve practice-based education in this area. We envision such systems, designed for the next generations of learners that enhance their knowledge in connection with real-life situations while they train in mandatory safety conditions.