The term "medical robots" often brings to mind large surgical systems, such as the da Vinci or Renaissance models. Many think surgical robots will be the wave of the future, since they give surgeons remote access to patients and finely tuned instruments without the need for more invasive surgery. As we've reported, some surgical robots have even been proposed for assisting with the repair of NASA satellites.
But other types of robots are helping paralyzed people and those with leg injuries walk again. And they are helping caretakers transfer patients to and from bed. For people who are completely paralyzed, some robots are being developed that will fetch and manipulate everyday objects like bottles.
Click on the photo below to view our medical robot gallery showcasing 10 different systems and apps:
A specialized example of humanoid consumer robots is the ASSIST, a two-armed mobile manipulator that fetches and manipulates objects for quadriplegics. (Source: Laboratoire d'Informatique de Robotique et de Microelectronique de Montpellier)
Thanks for your input, Pbaker. I enjoy looking at the cross-pollination possibilities of new technologies, and I agree with you that it's long past due for importing some of those into medical and hospital applications. Information about the huge number of deaths in hospitals due to errors has been out for nearly a decade in the consumer press, yet these institutions have been slow to respond. Using QC experts from a car company makes total sense, but that sort of decision apparently requires looking at the problem either with a new set of mental filters, or from outside the company or institution.
Al, I think vision is an integral part of robotics, both now and going forward.
I also think that the Kinect motion sensor/camera combo input device and others that may spring up like it will be key: it's so simple, it gives so much usable data and it fosters robot autonomy. Combined with a tiny camera and software, it's revolutionizing input devices and user interfaces in a lot of apps. I think this combined with the mapmaking navigation algorithms as mentioned here
I finally had to register just to make a comment...
OK so a group of us are having our monthly luncheon get together (Minnesota Mensa) and the subject of medical misdiagnoses comes up... One thing leads to another and then I see this reasonably put together slideshow on robots for use in medical environments and the subequent comments. Now my other passion, cross-pollination allows me to relate to this whole thing as follows (please bear with me)...1/ one of the first guys at this was Dean Kamen (think Segway) who developed a self-standing robotic exoskeleton that could help paraplegics climb stairs(over 20 years ago) 2/ there is technology development underway that will allow medical personell to diagnose illnesses by sampling an individual's breath and analyzing the sample. I seem to remember that there are up to 30 ailments currently detectable. 3/ This makes one think of Startrek and 'Bones' ability to scan a crew member to do his checkup 4/ While we're talking space when Startrek first came out I was told the NASA scientists visited the set and came away with over 100 ideas. (cross-pollination) 5/ and in line with NASA as a recent blog sugggested that the human shape of robots is freaky while it was NASA that made mention that the reason for this is to allow both robots and humans to use the same tools I could go on but the end point is, it is long past time for the medical profession to be automated. Robot surgeons are simply one facet-agreed? However as good as the robots or their operators may be it will still not fix the shockingly high number of accidental deaths in operating theatres in this country or the equally appalling number of operating mistakes that happe,n again, in this country! at least not until something is done about the IT/communications infrastructure in the medical community
Perhaps a start might be to follow the path of Royal Jubilee Eye Care Clinic in Victoria B.C. that when required to improve the bottom line both operationally and finacially they went outside and hired a QC guy from the Toyota Motor Corp (cross-pollination) to help them. Operations up 30%, no lay-offs, all personell happy, budget saving > $450.000/yr. and one last note, the medical Crown Stent was developed by helicopter engineers cause the bio-med folks had 'hit the wall' so to speak.
Thanks all for your time and patience, food for thought?
Ann, How much do you think advancements with vision systems (ability to recognize objects) will play into future robotic innovations? I know that in the case of mobile robots, the ability to "recognize" the environment and software that can use rules to make intelligent decisions is a key. I would think that 3D vision systems and vision software enhancements would be key to future developments.
Thanks, Chuck--I love it! It looks like a simpler, more targeted version of the walking assistance robotic exoskeletons in my slideshow. I notice your article mentions those exoskeletons, and also mentions DARPA funding for them. DARPA funded the original versions of at least one of the exoskeletons in the slideshow.
thoudayer, thanks for the input on HAL. I would have included them but couldn't get a photo. Rob, it's interesting that most of the discussion surgical robots mean surgeon replacements, yet what's needed at least as much, and shown by Al's comment, is replacements for medical staff.
TJ, that's very funny. If you've ever had surgery, the last thing you usually see is either the ceiling above the gurney you're lying on, or the nice nurse checking to see whether you've passed out yet. No robot arms--no surgeon arms, either. I once woke up under anesthetic when I wasn't supposed to. I saw a lot of things I'd rather forget, but at least none of them had sharp edges.
That is an interesting use of robots, to avoid error rates in surgery. In some ways it's similar to robotic inspection in manufacturing, where the robotic eye can see more than a human eye and can see the process more consistently.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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