Open-Source Opens Doors for Surgical Robots

Raven II, a robotic surgery system developed at UC Santa Cruz and the University of Washington, is being shared on an open-source basis with five other universities. Researchers hope that this will enable users to share software, replicate experiments, and collaborate in other ways — and ultimately advance the field through the power of academia.

The surgical robotic systems are being shared with researchers at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Nebraska, UC Berkeley, and UCLA. Most research on surgical robotics in the U.S. has focused on developing new software for various commercially available robotic systems, according to Jacob Rosen, associate professor of computer engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering at UCSC and principal investigator on the project. "Academic researchers have had limited access to these proprietary systems. We are changing that by providing high-quality hardware developed within academia," Rosen said. "Each lab will start with an identical, fully-operational system, but they can change the hardware and software and share new developments and algorithms, while retaining intellectual property rights for their own innovations."

The Raven II includes a surgical robot with two robotic arms, a camera for viewing the operational field, and a surgeon-interface system for remote operation of the robot. As Rosen mentioned, commercially available robotic systems are introducing new technologies, such as Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci Si™ EndoWrist® One™ vessel sealer, a "wristed, single-use instrument intended for bipolar coagulation and mechanical transection of vessels up to 7 mm in diameter and tissue bundles that fit in the jaws of the instrument." Read more about it here.

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