Ken Goldberg and the da Vinci Robot Take on Suturing

24 Jun, 2016

Ken Goldberg and the da Vinci Robot Take on Suturing

In a recent IEEE Spectrum article, “Would You Trust a Robot Surgeon to Operate on You?,” Eliza Strickland featured the work of BCNM’s Ken Goldberg in developing the da Vinci robotic system's applications in the operating room. The da Vinci system is a automated system, that can be taught tasks, and then calculate the optimal trajectory.

From the article:

"While the “flesh” being sutured in his lab is just pink rubber, the technology is the real thing. In 2013, Intuitive began donating used da Vinci systems to robotics researchers at universities around the world. So when Goldberg teaches his da Vinci how to independently perform a surgical task, the same programming could theoretically instruct commercial systems that operate on real patients. “We’re driving on the test track,” Goldberg says, “but one day we’ll take it out on the road.” He believes that simple surgical tasks will be automated within the next 10 years."

The robots will soon get good enough for clinical use, Goldberg says, because they’re starting to learn on their own. In his group’s newest experiment with learning from demonstrations, the da Vinci recorded data while eight surgeons of various skill levels used its robotic arms to perform the four-stitch suturing task. A machine-learning algorithm took the visual and kinematic data and divided each stitch into steps (needle positioning, needle pushing, and so forth) that it could tackle sequentially. With this method, the da Vinci could potentially learn any surgical task."

Read the article and more from IEEE Spectrum here.