From Humans to Artificial Intelligence: How Modern Robotics revolutionized the healthcare sector

AI Feb 24, 2022

By G. VIJAYA MALHAAR

The world is going through an ever-increasing evolution of technology. The rise of newer diseases day by day has raised the need for the intrusion of technology into the medical world, especially robotics. Robots have paved the way for advancements in the medical industry. Considering the ongoing pandemic, Robots are suitable to take care of patients and can carry out complex and precise tasks and reduce the workload of workers, increasing efficiency. This article talks about various things to look out for while making a medical robot, the developments in surgical robots, especially the Da Vinci Surgical System and robots used in healthcare during the ongoing COVID-19.

NEEDS OF A HEALTHCARE ROBOT

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) call for precise, accurate, and controlled decisions and measurements in healthcare. Regarding the control and dexterity of the design, designers allow sufficient degrees of freedom(DOF) for the end-effector to move in all the desired axes. The most notable example is the Da Vinci Surgical System by Intuitive Surgical Inc. and DRL MIRO by the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics of the German Aerospace Centre, which can move along 7 degrees of freedom and is also an important surgical robot known for high precision and accuracy. Since surgery has high risk, Robots use their meticulously designed AI to judge whether an accidental move is made by the surgeon like the DLR MIRO robots, which stops itself if the operator's hand slips off the controller by accident. For that, robust embedded controllers are implemented for the control and navigation of the robots. Healthcare also calls for a cleaner environment for the robot; therefore, the end effectors of surgical robots are designed for one-time use only, and service robots are sanitized regularly to not be carriers for diseases. For Medical Robots, there are safety standards for them to be safe around patients and doctors who will be in proximity of the robots. For example, standard IEC 80601-2-77 sets the safety requirements for Surgical Robots and IEC 80601-2-78 for Rehabilitation Robots. Robots are used in each area of the healthcare sector as a receptionist, nurse, ambulance, telemedicine, hospital serving, cleaning, spraying/disinfectant, surgical and rehabilitation robots.

Source: a). newatlas.com b).  dlr.de

SURGICAL ROBOTS: THE CURRENT NEED

In olden times it was usually required to use human hands during surgeries, keeping the patient at the risk of slight accidents in the Surgery Room. It was even more challenging for the doctor to look into places that could not be seen with the naked eye.

Hence, the need for surgical robots came into the picture. Surgical robots generally follow a master-slave network in which the surgeon is in control. The surgeon receives a video of the part to work through 3-D cameras, and the surgeon maneuvers the arms of the robot through the given consoles. The arms are for holding the tool.

The Da Vinci Surgical Systems, built by Intuitive Surgical, uses a minimally invasive approach that involves smaller incisions and less healing time. It is controlled by a surgeon from a Surgeon Console which translates the surgeon’s hand movements in real time, bending and rotating the instrument accordingly during the procedure, also containing a visor to view 3-D images. The arms controlled are used on the patient at the patient side cart, which consists of the arms and the endoscope to give the surgeon a clear image which can also be viewed from the vision cart, in high definition. The arms consist of a passive part and an actuated part. The passive part of the arms is for setting up the RCM (Remote Centre of Motion) of each arm. It consists of four joints. One joint is prismatic for adjusting the height, followed by three planar revolute joints for easy passive manipulation. Out of these, only the prismatic joints are electrically actuated.

The other parts are the actuated arms, containing two sub-units: manipulator arms and the end effector with three active degrees of freedom each. This mechanism is an RCM mechanism, which improves surgical accuracy and dexterity. RCM is a remote fixed point around which a mechanism or a part of a mechanism can rotate, considering there are no physical revolute joints over there. Generally, the RCM mechanisms are bulky, due to which research is still on to make the mechanism lighter and more compact.

Source: entokey.com

This machine is used for many procedures like cystectomy, Radical prostatectomy, pyeloplasty and many more. One of the research developments noticed came in the new The Da Vinci Si model which is meant to have a Firefly Fluorescence Imaging System, which will provide additional visual information by enabling real-time visualization. This is the same robot that did the infamous 'surgery on a grape,' which became a viral meme in 2017.

COVID-19: THE NEED FOR ROBOTS

An increase in the number of cases during the pandemic made it difficult for therapists and dieticians to interact with the patient with the fear of getting COVID-19. Hence, India used robots like Mitra. Mitra, built by a Bengaluru-based start-up, Invento Robotics, was primarily built to engage in hospitality management and workplace productivity. Mitra runs on a proprietary operating system and recognizes speech in multiple languages. It has 3 degrees of freedom on each hand and one on the head. This robot has a tablet connected to it to help patients interact with their loved ones in isolation.

Source: a). reuters.com b). tcd.ie c). time.com

Stevie was a social robot built by Trinity's Robotics and Innovation Lab's spinoff company, Akara Robotics, to serve old individuals in care homes. It is known that UV lights, which are lights at a wavelength between 200 and 280 nanometres, are a good disinfectant. It can cause DNA to change shape or act like molecular scissors. UV light is also dangerous to humans as it causes sunburn and skin cancer. Hence, after long thought into the design, Akara Robotics finally came up with Violet, containing a direct UV light source that turns off when near a person. It also has sensors that control its movement, making it navigate automatically, a feature similar to Stevie.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

COVID-19, Malaria, Cancer, and many diseases have plagued humans for a long time. If anything can tackle it better, it will be a constant evolution of technology. Even diseases like Alzheimer's can now be helped by robots, like Dinsow, from CT Asian Robotics, which displays pictures of different people and asks patients to match the face with the name to improve its symptoms. Many more machines and robots have come up, with the help of AI and Machine Learning, which pave the way for healthier, stronger, and longer lives.

G. VIJAYA MALHAAR

2020A4PS1318P

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