Shrapnel-Locating Autonomous Robot

An autonomous surgical robot created at Duke University has demonstrated that it can successfully locate very small fragments of metal within flesh, and guide a needle to the exact location.


(A.j. Rogers with shrapnel-locating robot)

In their latest experiments, the engineers started with a rudimentary tabletop robot whose “eyes” are a novel 3-D ultrasound technology developed at Duke. An artificial intelligence program served as the robot’s “brain” by taking the real-time 3-D information, processing it and giving the robot specific commands to perform. In their simulations, the researchers used tiny (2 millimeter) pieces of needle because, like shrapnel, they are subject to magnetism.

“We attached an electromagnet to our 3-D probe, which caused the shrapnel to vibrate just enough that its motion could be detected,” said A.J. Rogers, who just completed an undergraduate degree in bioengineering at Duke. “Once the shrapnel’s coordinates were established by the computer, it successfully guided a needle to the site of the shrapnel.”

By proving that the robot could guide a needle to an exact location, it would simply be a matter of replacing the needle probe with a tiny tool, such as a grabber, the researchers said.

All this is good news for Larry Niven fans anxiously awaiting the development of the autodoc, a fully automated device able to diagnose, treat and nurse a patient back to health.

Philip K. Dick fans are still waiting patiently for the autonomous robot surgeon hands that could even be detached when necessary.

Read more about Autonomous Tabletop Robotic Surgery At Duke.

Via Duke University press release - Autonomous Surgical Robot Detects Shrapnel.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/24/2009)

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