The internet hummed last week with reports that “Humans Still Make Better Surgeons Than Robots.” Stanford University Medical Center set off the tweetstorm with its seemingly scathing report on robotic surgery. When reading the research of 24,000 patients with kidney cancer, I concluded that the problem lied with the humans overcharging patients versus any technology flaw. In fact, the study praised robotic surgery for complicated procedures and suggested the fault lied with hospitals unnecessarily pushing robotic surgery for simple operations over conventional methods, which led to “increases in operating times and cost.”
In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Ayanna Howard, Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, about her work to help children with the movement disorder cerebral palsy. Howard discusses how robots and tablet can be used to “gamify” pediatric therapy. The idea is that if therapy is fun and engaging children are more likely to do it, and thus, they are more likely to see the long-term benefits of the therapy. Howard discusses how therapy is “gamified,” how a small humanoid robot is used to coach children, and how they work with pediatricians.
Recording electrical signals from inside a neuron in the living brain can reveal a great deal of information about that neuron’s function and how it coordinates with other cells in the brain. However, performing this kind of recording is extremely difficult, so only a handful of neuroscience labs around the world do it.
Using Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) as a way to give people with locked-in syndrome back reliable communication and control capabilities has long been a futuristic trope of medical dramas and sci-fi. A team from NCCR Robotics and CNBI, EPFL have recently published a paper detailing work as a step towards taking this technique into everyday lives of those affected by extreme paralysis.
To make it easier to diagnose and study sleep problems, researchers at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have devised a new way to monitor sleep stages without sensors attached to the body. Their device uses an advanced artificial intelligence algorithm to analyze the radio signals around the person and translate those measurements into sleep stages: light, deep, or rapid eye movement (REM).
Flexible endoscopes can snake through narrow passages to treat difficult to reach areas of the body. However, once they arrive at their target, these devices rely on rigid surgical tools to manipulate or remove tissue. These tools offer surgeons reduced dexterity and sensing, limiting the current therapeutic capabilities of the endoscope.
A team led by Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering and of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia Engineering, has published a pilot study in Science Robotics that demonstrates a robotic training method that improves posture and walking in children with crouch gait by enhancing their muscle strength and coordination.
Singapore and MIT have been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. First, there were self-driving golf buggies. Then, an autonomous electric car. Now, leveraging similar technology, MIT and Singaporean researchers have developed and deployed a self-driving wheelchair at a hospital.
When training to regain movement after stroke or spinal cord injury (SCI), patients must once again learn how to keep their balance during walking movements. Current clinical methods support the weight of the patient during movement, while setting the body off balance. This means that when patients are ready to walk without mechanical assistance, it can be hard to re-train the body to balance against gravity. This is the issue addressed in a recent paper published in Science Translational Medicine by a team lead by Courtine-Lab, and featuring Ijspeert Lab, NCCR Robotics and EPFL.
A robotic doctor that can be controlled hundreds of kilometres away by a human counterpart is gearing up for action. Getting a check-up from a robot may sound like something from a sci-fi film, but scientists are closing in on this real-life scenario and have already tested a prototype.
The biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden describes how the snake became the most cursed of all beasts: “you shall walk on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.” The reptile’s eternal punishment is no longer feared but embraced for its versatility and flexibility. The snake is fast approaching as one of the most celebrated robotic creatures for roboticists worldwide in out maneuvering rovers and humanoids.
Laparoscopy is a surgical technique in which a fiber-optic camera is inserted into a patient’s abdominal cavity to provide a video feed that guides the surgeon through a minimally invasive procedure. Laparoscopic surgeries can take hours, and the video generated by the camera — the laparoscope — is often recorded. Those recordings contain a wealth of information that could be useful for training both medical providers and computer systems that would aid with surgery, but because reviewing them is so time consuming, they mostly sit idle.