Fraunhofer device could be a surgeon's third arm
Beinga surgeon is a pretty high-stress job, and relies heavily on surgicalassistants for things like setting clamps and holding tools.Researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute are looking tolighten the load a little, by developing a metal hand that lets surgeonsmore directly control what's happening on the operating table.
Fromtools designed to compensate for shaking hands to a handheld 3D printer just for surgeons, we've seen technology used in medicine insome pretty interesting ways over the years. Now, the FraunhoferInstitute is looking to change things up on the operating table,working on a mechanical assistant that could let surgeonspersonally control more aspects of procedures than ever before.
Thedevice, which is a sort of robotic arm, is designed to hold standardsurgical instruments common in operating rooms. It can, for example,operate an endoscope, which is used to take footage of inside apatient's body. Once the doctor makes the initial incision, therobotic arm can hold the tool and manipulate its position withoutdamaging the incision point at all.
Currently,the system is controlled via gestures, dispensing with the need towear special sterile gloves. A screen shows a visual representationof the doctor's hand, with a small dot representing the position ofthe tool being manipulated. He or she can perform a grabbing motionto select and then move the instrument.
Ofcourse, there's one big problem with that method of control – asurgeon generally needs both their hands to perform the job at hand.To combat the control shortfall, the researchers are currentlyworking to enable voice control. This will require the doctor to setup certain movements linked to commands, so that when he or she saysa command such as "retract," the mechanical hand will respond with the appropriate action exactly as expected.
It'san ambitious goal, and one that the team is striving towards, having already completed a demonstration model. Early trials of the robothand have also begun, with the goal addressing just how effectiveit's likely to prove in practice, as well as what improvements needto be made.
Thedemo model will be officially revealed at the MEDICAtrade fair in Dusseldorf on November 16, alongside the concept userinterface.