We've seen huge advances in medical technology over the past decade. This is another example. Medical technology has become a very exciting are of development. This new technology for helping with chest surgery is good to see.
Since ribs are still being spread, probably about the same distance, my guess is that a similar amount of force is being applied.
So while the new system tool is possibly much easier to control, and certainly much more modern in fuctionality, the actual benefit has not been made clear to me. The ribs are still being spread by force, and that force is still about the same, and now a device that does not have intrinsic force feedback is provided. A hand driven jack mechanism provides instant feedback through the feel to the operator, while this system evidently provides a display of the force. Different for sure, but I don't know how much better, since the mechanism of advantages was not explained, I don't think.
The real difference is that the software is controlling how much force is placed on the ribs rather than the surgeon. So, do you believe that the machine has a better feel for what's happening to the patient or the surgeon? One could argue that the machine is more objective or that the surgeon knows his patient and procedure better. The medical devices I was involved with were designed to perform a particular way, but the surgeon was always allowed to override the "standard settings", our belief being that the surgeon, much like a pilot, is always in command.
It may be that the software can spread the ribs more gently, or something like that. My feeling is that there are a few details not mentioned in the writeup, although it is at least possible that simply having a different form factor was the large benefit. On some rare occasions the shape of a tool is more important than the actual function of that tool. Not very often, but occasionally.
Sophisticated algorithms help improve closed loop feedback systems along with computer modeling can definitely improve motor motion needed for this medical application tool. Great article on medical robotics!