Raven, the Open-Source Surgical Robot, Takes Flight in Santa Cruz

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A multidisciplinary team of engineers from the University of Washington and the University of California, Santa Cruz, have developed a surgical robot, called Raven 2, for use as an open-source surgical robotics research platform. Seven units of the Raven 2 will be made available to researchers at Harvard; Johns Hopkins; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, Los Angeles, while the remaining two systems will remain at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Washington.

The Raven 2 is a surgical robot with seven degrees of freedom, compact electronics, and two wing-like arms which end in tiny gripper claws designed to perform surgery on simulated patients. The robot's software is compatible with Robot Operating System, an open-source robotics coding platform.

This open-source approach, along with the provision of the Raven 2 units to the participating schools, aims to accelerate the pace of development of surgical robotics. By saving researchers time and effort in developing their own software control systems and by providing a common hardware research platform, more time can be spent sharing software improvements, replicating experiments, and collaborating.

According to the press release a number of research projects have already been lined up for the Raven 2 units by the participating schools:

  • Harvard mechanical engineers working on "beating-heart" surgery, where a robot compensates for the movement of a beating heart so a surgeon can operate as if on a static surface.
  • Johns Hopkins computer scientists working on image analysis, superimposing the surgeon's field of view on standard medical images.
  • UW research on force feedback, using machine intelligence to create barriers around things a surgeon needs to avoid, and attractive force fields around objects the surgeon wants to touch.

The engineering team has been posting about their progress and published some videos of the Raven 2 in action at the Raven 2 Development Blog. This project is sure to make a huge impact on the field of surgical robotics and we will be eager to watch its progress.


This post also appears on medGadget, an Atlantic partner site.

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