da Vinci Surgical Robot Given Sense of Touch to Prevent Injury

Intuitive Surgical effectively brought robotics into the operating room with its da Vinci systems. The company now dominates this market and its robots are now used all over the world to conduct all kinds of minimally invasive surgeries. While the da Vincis give surgeons incredible precision when working with tissues deep inside the body, they lack any force-feedback and therefore the physician can’t feel what’s being worked on.

This is a serious problem, as our sense of touch lets us know when something is in the way, when a tear may start forming, and when it feels like tissue is about to give. Engineers and surgeons at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, using the da Vinci Research Kit, have now developed a force sensor for the da Vinci trocars that provides real-time haptic feedback to the user. The surgical instruments stay as they are and don’t have to be tinkered with in any way, making it easy to introduce the technology into future surgical robots. Moreover, the sensors can be used to prevent the surgeon from accidentally applying too much force, preventing potential injury.

Here’s a short video demonstrating the delicate surgery that is possible with the addition of the new sensors:

(hat tip: SurgRob)

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