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)
You raise an interesting point, gsmith. I wonder what the legal implications are, and if any body of precedents has emerged, regarding liability when there's a failure or a poor outcome after an operation in which robots have been involved. I thought this was still theoretical. However, it's not. The first Da Vinci robot is now being used in some prostate and gynecological procedures.
Robots have come a long way and are doing some very important work. I'm especially happy to see the benefits they offer people with disabilities. The only thing that bothers me is using them for mission critical functions such as surgery. Suppose the robot has a failure, (such a component failures, processor locks up, etc.) or the communication medium (camera, communication link, etc.) gets a glitch? Any component or design is subjected to failure and what make it even frighten is counterfeit components. With mission, critical products and systems such as a robot that performs surgery must be designed, built and tested to a much higher standard than those for noncritical functions.
Ann, do you know what extra steps companies take in developing, manufacturing and testing robots that perform such important functions so they can greatly reduce and/or eliminate failures?
It won't be too much longer and hardware design, as we used to know it, will be remembered alongside the slide rule and the Karnaugh map. You will need to move beyond those familiar bits and bytes into the new world of software centric design.
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