Designed for abdomen-related surgeries, the device allows surgeons to control robotic arms using their feet

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

July 14, 2023

2 Min Read
EPFL

A new robotic device allows surgeons to complete “four-arm” procedures.

Developed by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the device is designed to help with laparoscopy operations, which are used to examine the abdomen and pelvic region. 

To give surgeons more control and movement in this typically tricky area, the device features haptic foot interfaces – pedal-like additions that allow surgeons to control two robotic arms with their feet, in addition to using their own hands to operate.

The research was done in collaboration with research group REHAssist and the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA).

“Actuators in the foot pedals give haptic feedback to the user, guiding the foot towards the target as if following an invisible field-of-forces, and also limit force and movement to ensure that erroneous feet movements do not endanger the patient,” said Mohamed Bouri, head of REHAssist. “Our system opens up new possibilities for surgeons to perform four-handed laparoscopic procedures, allowing a single person to do a task that is usually performed by two, sometimes three people.”

The team also said the robot can sometimes predict the surgeon’s movements, assisting in the motion and helping to minimize fatigue. 

“Controlling four arms simultaneously, moreover with one’s feet, is far from routine and can be quite tiring,” said Aude Billard, head of LASA. “To reduce the complexity of the control, the robots actively assist the surgeon by coordinating their movements with the surgeons through active prediction of the surgeon’s intent and adaptive visual tracking of laparoscopic instruments with the camera. Additionally, assistance is offered for more accurate grasping of the tissues.”

The system has already seen successful operation by specialists, and clinical trials are ongoing in Geneva to bring it into commercialization. 

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

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