Using a new software protocol called the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, nine research teams from universities and research institutes around the world recently collaborated on the first successful demonstration of multiple biomedical robots operated from different locations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The University of Washington operated its Raven surgical robot and SRI International operated it M7 surgical robot for the demonstration.
In a 24-hour period, each participating group connected over the Internet and controlled robots at different locations. The tests demonstrated how a wide variety of robot and controller designs can seamlessly interoperate, allowing researchers to work together easily and more efficiently. In addition, the demonstration evaluated the feasibility of robotic manipulation from multiple sites, and was conducted to measure time and performance for evaluating laparoscopic surgical skills.
The new protocol was cooperatively developed by the University of Washington and SRI International, to standardize the way remotely operated robots are managed over the Internet.
"Although many telemanipulation systems have common features, there is currently no accepted protocol for connecting these systems," says SRI's Tom Low. "We hope this new protocol serves as a starting point for the discussion and development of a robust and practical Internet-type standard that supports the interoperability of future robotic systems."
The protocol will allow engineers and designers that usually develop technologies independently to work collaboratively, determine which designs work best, encourage widespread adoption of the new communications protocol, and help robotics research to evolve more rapidly. Early adoption of this protocol internationally will encourage robotic systems to be developed with interoperability in mind, and avoid future incompatibilities.
"We're very pleased with the success of the event in which almost all of the possible connections between operator stations and remote robots were successful. We were particularly excited that novel elements such as a simulated robot and an exoskeleton controller worked smoothly with the other remote manipulation systems," says UW professor of electrical engineering Blake Hannaford.
The demonstration included the following organizations:
- SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., USA
- University of Washington Biorobotics Lab (BRL), Seattle, Washington, USA
- University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), Bionics Lab, Santa Cruz, Calif., USA
- iMedSim, Interactive Medical Simulation Laboratory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, USA
- Korea University of Technology (KUT) BioRobotics Lab, Cheonan, South Chungcheong, South Korea
- Imperial College London (ICL), London, England
- Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Baltimore, Maryland, USA
- Technische Universität München (TUM), Munich, Germany
- Tokyo Institute of Technology (TOK), Tokyo, Japan
For information regarding availability of the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, go to http://brl.ee.washington.edu/Research_Active/Interoperability/index.php/Main_Page.