Around 2013- 2014, I contributed an article with the above title to the then Engineering Research News (ISSN 0217-7870). The theme was “The Changing Faces of ME”. Mechanical Engineering (ME) is multi-disciplinary.
Following is an edited version:
One key research area pursued by my group is intelligent surgical robotic system, which augments and enhances the hand-eye coordination capability of the surgeon during operation so as to achieve the desired outcome and reduce invasiveness.
Hand-eye coordination refers to the ability of our vision system to coordinate and process the information received through the eyes to control, guide and direct our hands in the accomplishment of a given task. In this work, we studied hand-eye coordination to build medical simulator for surgical training and to develop medical robot that will duplicate the best surgeon’s hand-eye coordination skill.
An integrated view on surgical simulator and robot assisted surgery is adopted in our research. The former is a simulation game for surgical training and treatment planning. The latter is a single or plurality of devices assisting the surgical team to operate on the patient precisely. With computer simulator, a patient specific surgical plan can be derived with robot manipulation included. By combining patient specific simulation with robotic execution, we can developed highly autonomous robot(s).
In an automated system, poor information feedback will remove the human operator from the decision-making role and into a supervisory role. Necessary visual, audio and haptic cues should be provided to the human in a timely manner so that he/she can intervene in a speedy manner. The study on human centricity in an immersive and robot-assisted environment will provide unique insights on human hand-eye coordination capabilities under external influences.
Cognitive engine provides a high level of intelligence in the autonomous robot to be effective collaborator with human(s). The engine possesses knowledge about relevant parts of surgery, including the dynamics of the surgery, the robot’s actions and the behavior of the biological tissue in response to the actions. The action of the surgical team has added to the dynamics and, sometimes, uncertainty to the operation. The self-learning process of the cognitive engine requires inherent knowledge of tissue biomechanics. The biological tissues within the human patient body cavity are living elements that may be preserved, repaired or destroyed using mechanical and thermal methods.
A surgery can be planned with a virtual robot in a simulator with realistic biomechanical models, and the surgery is then performed on the patient using the robot with the help of advanced man-machine interfaces. Augmented reality technologies with intelligent visual, haptic and audio cues will provide a medium for the surgical team to have an effective control over the robot.
The figure on our architecture of an intelligent surgical robotic system with cognitive engine in the original article is still a work-in-progress. Its latest version can be found in:
Tan, X, C B Chng, B Duan, Y Ho, R Wen, X Chen, K B Lim and C K Chui, “Cognitive engine for robot-assisted radio-frequency ablation system”, Acta Polytechnica Hungarica 14, no. 1 (2017): 129-145.