It’s been years since the Da Vinci surgical robot unwittingly morphed from a great hope for telesurgery to a semi-common tool for doctors to do ultra-precise surgeries with their hands on the controls in the next room. In the last 5 years, we’ve seen such robots perform prostate surgery, lace a football, make a paper airplane and even peeling a grape.
Here are eight promising robots that may soon be commonplace thanks to the amazing benefits they offer:
Painstaking hair transplants could soon be automated
The first ever FDA-approved hair transplant robot – Artas – is currently being used by about 20 surgeons in the U.S. and Canada, and was recently introduced in the UK and Korea. Removing individual hairs by the follicle (and a tiny bit of surrounding skin) is tedious for people to do but outsourcing this technically difficult task to a robot could make hair transplants cheaper and less painful.
Brain-controlled robot gives arm back to quadriplegics
A DARPA-funded robot prosthetic controlled by the human brain has let a quadriplegic woman eat food on her own for the first time in ten years. Jan Scheuermann is part of a program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that implanted electrodes in her brain to control an arm she’s used to eat a chocolate bar. See for yourself in the video below.
GE’s Hospital Robot Could Reduce Human Errors And Save Lives
So much of the expense of operations is in the prep and recouping of surgical equipment. A new automated OR “’bot” from GE may help free up human time by taking on repetitive tasks like sorting scalpels, sterilizing tools, and other takes needed to prep an operating theater for surgery.
“Chilli Crab” robot crawls through your throat to grab cancer
It’s like a scene from Alien, played in reverse: Singapore researchers have developed a robotic surgery device inspired by the country’s famous national dish, chilli crab. Singapore’s National University Hospital’s “crab-bot” rides an endoscope to “crawl” down a stomach cancer patient’s throat. Once in the stomach, the robot uses a set of pincers to grab onto a cancerous mass and slice it away with a tiny hook. Because it enters through the mouth, the robot is far less invasive than other surgical options for those with early-stage gastrointestinal cancer.
Washington U providing open-source, common platform for medical robotics research
With two wing-like arms that end in tiny claws designed to perform surgery on a simulated patient, the University of Washington’s Raven platform will soon be rolled out for research work across the country. “Having everyone working on the same, open-source robot will help to make these happen more quickly,” UW associate professor of urology Thomas Lendvay told the university press.
Carnegie Mellon’s “Snakebot” slithers into your heart
CardioARM (nicknamed the “Snakebot”) is a tiny, 102-segment worm-like device designed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University for performing minimally-invasive heart surgery. To do so, the robot enters the body (and then heart) through a 1 cm incision. The front end of the robot has tools to cut and cauterize depending on what sort of repairs need to be carried out. With out the trauma of creating a huge “zipper-scar” cut and cracking open a person’s rib cage, recovery times would be a fraction of the normal period.
LEGO-style surgical robots self-assemble
These multi-limbed tubes that look like park of a toy building set are actually prototypes of ARES (Assembling Reconfigurable Endoluminal Surgical system) robots developed by the Scuola Superiore Sant Anna in Pisa, Italy. Patients swallow each segment individually and once inside a person, the different segments assemble themselves into a whole unit, complete with structural functions, communication, power supply, processing and control, as well as diagnostic devices, including a camera for endoscopy and more.
“NeuroArm” performs world’s first robotic brain surgery
Hair transplants, even tumor removals seem pretty reasonable for robots to have a go at…But brain surgery? Researchers at the University of Calgary and Canadian company MDA – who built the robotic arms for the Space Shuttles and the International Space Station – have teamed up to create a medical robot capable of performing brain surgery with a human operator. And unlike some of the robots above, which have only been tried in animal trials, NeuroArm has actually operated successfully on a human (who’s doing just fine now, by-the-way.)
Stronger robo-nurse has a soft touch at your bedside
Enough with those “nurse bots” that can only carry a patient after a lengthy balancing act or look at them through a camera connected to a life staff member: Twendy-One, a bedside nurse-bot, has soft fingertips nimble enough to delicately grip a drinking straw but also arms with enough strength to lift an adult out of bed. Plus it’s not scary-looking (so no re-hospitalization due to extreme fright after waking up in its arms.)
Swallow hard: Propeller-bot is set to survey your insides
The Royal College of Surgeons’ camera capsule is designed to explore the human digestive system. After swallowed, it “swims” to inspect an area of interest, driven by tiny propellers. http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/dn17700sci-fi-surgery-medical-robots/2
Would you let one of these robots operate on you? How easy do you think it would be to convince a patient to receive treatment from one?
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