The drastic cost reductions that are happening in robotics are very exciting. Similar to 3D printing and Motion capture, it seems like the special one time use of these technologies are becoming more accessible every year. To me, the most interesting part of this work is the use of the pneumatic for force feedback and sensing.
This is a robot system for keyhole surgery, consisting of a master unit operated by the surgeon, and a slave unit that moves on the patient side.
“A feature of the slave robot is, it’s powered entirely by air. Nearly all conventional robots are electrically powered, but by driving this robot pneumatically, we’ve made it possible to gently absorb the force when the robot touches something. The force on the tip of the robot is estimated from the air pressure data, and that information is sent to the surgeon’s master robot. So, it can be fed back to the surgeon’s hand. Alternatively, a large force can be produced by a very lightweight, compact unit. An advantage of this system is, the robot overall can be made extremely compact.”
“Here, the user is operating the master robot. This demonstration enables you to experience, for example, how you can feel the reaction force when you pull the rubber band.”
“Of course, you can eliminate shaking of the hand, change the motion ratio, and change the force feedback factor. So, depending on the medical staff and the situation, the parameters can be varied, to make the system easier to use on the spot.”
“Currently, we aim to build this system for one-third to one-tenth the cost of the da Vinci surgical system. So, we think we can make it better in terms of cost as well.”
“Right now, we’re working with surgeons, who are actually using this system and giving us feedback on how to improve it. We’re receiving support from MEXT, and we aim to achieve a practical version within 4 to 5 years.”