An open-source robo-surgeon
March 7, 2012 | Source: The Economist
University of Washington researchers have developed medical robots with wing-like arms, called Ravens, for robotic surgery.
Originally developed for the U.S. army, Ravens are compact, light and cheap (relatively speaking) at around $250,000, compared to $1.8 million for the da Vinci Surgical System.
It’s also the first surgical robot to use open-source software. So anyone can modify, debug, and improve the original code, creating a way for researchers to experiment and collaborate, pending FDA approval for use on humans.
Universities across America took delivery of the first brood of Ravens in February. At Harvard, Rob Howe and his team hope to use a Raven to operate on a beating heart, by automatically compensating for its motion. Heart surgery currently requires that the organ be stopped and then restarted.
At the University of California, Los Angeles, Warren Grundfest is working on ways to give the robot a sense of touch that is communicated to the operator. Pieter Abbeel and Ken Goldberg at the University of California, Berkeley, will try teaching the robot to operate autonomously by mimicking surgeons.