Study leads to development of low-cost, high-accuracy flexible Medical Robots

In a ground-breaking development, robotics experts at the University of California have developed an easy to use, affordable system to track position of flexible surgical robots within the human body. Nonetheless, the performance of the system is at par with current art methods, and is much less expensive. Besides, many current methods require exposure to radiation, which the new system does not require.

The findings of the system developed as a joint effort of two researchers at School of Engineering at University of California is published in the April 2020 issue of IEEE Robotics.

“Continuum medical robots serve to be useful in highly constrained environments inside the body,” said one of the researcher. They are inherently safer and are more compliant than rigid tools. But the ordeal is to track their location and shape inside the human body. And, if this can be tracked easily it would be great benefit to patients as well as surgeons.

Apparatus involved Embedded Magnet at Tip of Flexible Robot

For the study, researchers embedded a magnet in the tip of a flexible robot. This flexible robot can be used in delicate parts inside the body, such as the arterial passage in the brain.

“The study involved working with a growing robot – made of very thin nylon. The growing robot is inverted almost like a sock, and pressurized with a fluid which causes the robot to grow,” said one of the researcher. Since the robot is soft and the movement is by growing, it makes negligible impact on its surroundings. This makes them ideal for medical use.

Following this, the researchers used existing magnet localization methods, which are very much like GPS, in order to develop a computer model that predicts the location of the robot.