The RAVEN Surgical Robotic System: Robot-Assisted Tele-Surgery for Tele-Health

The CITRIS Health Care Initiative aims to improve the capacity of the state health care system through fundamental research in science, technology, and services. CITRIS researchers seek to improve the service and delivery of health care using IT. While research has produced many life-saving diagnoses and treatments, access to these improvements has been challenged by high costs and uneven service. The Tele-Health project seeks to extend the reach of health care, especially in poor and underserved communities.

Lead PI Kenneth Goldberg, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR), and co-PI Pieter Abbeel, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, experimenting with the RAVEN open architecture surgical robotic system.

Tele-surgery over longer distances is not yet possible. Time-delays, although brief, pose a major challenge and can lead to mechanical instabilities for such remote tele-operation that can disrupt procedures and injure patients. A promising alternative is Supervisory Control, where the remote surgeon supervises each step by specifying subtasks and parameters that are then performed autonomously by the robot, thereby avoiding instabilities. “Robot-Assisted Tele-Surgery” combines the expertise and intuition of the remote surgeon to supervise with the precision of the local robot system. Currently, there are two barriers to research in Robot-Assisted Tele-Surgery: Researchers do not have access to the control interfaces needed to experiment, and programming of autonomous subtasks that involve deformation of soft tissues and nonlinear dynamics is extremely difficult.

CITRIS researchers have been given full access to the interfaces of the Raven Surgical Tele-Operation System which was designed, fabricated, and interfaced by Prof. Jacob Rosen at UCSC with Blake Hannaford at University of Washington. The researchers will apply statistical robot learning to acquire control policies based on example trajectories provided by human experts. A paper by team leaders Professors Pieter Abbeel and Kenneth Goldberg on the preliminary results won the Best Medical Robotics Paper at the prestigious IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Working with Doug Boyd from UC Davis, a world-class surgeon, they will implement a system and perform a series of experiments to establish significant proof of concept results for supervised tele-surgery.

This research team brings together established leaders in surgery, robot hardware, robot learning, medical robotics, and automation. Each of the team members has published widely in their areas. The CITRIS seed funding will provide a unique opportunity for leveraging each of their strengths to establish the foundation for a revolution in Tele-Surgery.

** View the RAVEN photo gallery on the CITRIS Facebook page **

** Watch the RAVEN video on the CITRIS YouTube Channel **