Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

August 28th, 2009

Robots: Robot-Assisted Surgery

In this episode, we look at robots in the medical field, in particular those used in teleoperated surgery. We first speak with Rainer Konietschke from the German Aerospace Centre about the latest prototype of their MiroSurge robot for robot-assisted endoscopic surgery. We then speak with Woung Youn Chung from the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea, about his experience in operating patients with Thyroid cancer using the Da Vinci system.

Rainer Konietschke

Rainer Konietschke is part of the team at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics of the German Aerospace Centre working on the MiroSurge project, whose goal is to design a new generation of surgery robot for minimally-invasive surgery. Current endoscopic surgery is difficult for surgeons because they must work with long slender instruments that provide little feedback, and have a limited view of the operating area through a single camera. Konietschke and his colleagues’ goal with the MiroSurge is to overcome these limitations through robotics.

The MiroSurge robotic surgery system can provide a surgeon with 6 degrees of freedom inside a patient. Two of the robotic arms feature force capture sensors, which provide force feedback to the surgeon, putting him back in contact with the tissue being manipulated. The third robotic arm features a pair of cameras that provide the surgeon with a 3-dimensional view of the interior of the operating area. Konietschke tells us about the ultimate ambition of the MiroSurge project, which is to have a robot that can track a beating heart and compensate for its motion, allowing a surgeon to operate on it without having to stop the heart! He then wraps up the interview by speaking about soft actuators that allow surgeons to move the robot arms around manually with as much effort as moving a feather.

Woong Youn Chung

Woung Youn Chung is surgeon and Associate Professor at the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea. His resent success published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons has been to develop a robot-assisted method to treat hundreds of patients with thyroid cancer using the Da Vinci robot by Intuitive Surgical. The Da Vinci robot is actuated by arms that can perform precise and minimally invasive surgery and are teleoperated by a surgeon through a console with 3-D vision and joystick-like buttons and pedals. He’ll be telling us what the advantages, disadvantages and challenges are when using such medical robots and how technologies, such as those developed by Rainer Konietschke, can help in the field of surgery.



Operation Setup
Kang et al., Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 2009

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As always, more information can be found in the Robots forums, this week including videos of the high-speed robot hands, ASIMO avoiding moving obstacles and the two micro-robots for handling nanotubes.
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July 31st, 2009

Robots: Smart Homes

In today’s episode we look at how technology can improve the quality of life of people with dementia. Our first guest, Roger Orpwood, is the director of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering, or BIME, in the UK. He presents his smart homes which are being used to help dementia patients stay independent and receive better care. Our second guest Andrew Sixsmith, is Professor at the Simon Fraser University in Canada. He was the leader of the INDEPENDANT project which looked into what it takes to insure the quality of life of elderly people.

Roger Orpwood

Roger Orpwood has been the Director of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) in the UK since 2004. BIME is an independent design and development charity working in the fields of medicine, health care and assistive technology for disabled people. By marrying research and product development, they have been pushing new technologies out the door to the people who really need it.
Nearly 300 projects have been completed since Orpwood joined the Institute, and over 100,000 products sold as a result.

Their latest endeavor has resulted in Smart Homes that are already improving the quality of life of people with dementia by making sure they don’t put themselves into harm’s way while guiding them in their everyday tasks. Within the belly of this robotic home, patients improve their sleep behavior and are able to stay independent for longer amounts of time.

Orpwood also discusses the intricacy of working in real world situations and highly multidiciplinary environments composed of care givers, doctors, engineers and patients. Finally, we look at what it means to do research and product development at the BIME and the beauty of performing the whole path from the lab to people’s home.

Roger Orpwood has visiting chairs in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, and more recently in the School for Health.

Andrew Sixsmith

Andrew Sixsmith is the director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where he is developing ways of using technology to facilitate independent living of patients with dementia. Though keeping dementia patients safe is a priority, Sixsmith has also been looking at ways of increasing their quality of life. As part of the project INDEPENDENT for example Sixsmith developed a music-playing device designed specifically for dementia patients, who are not always capable of learning new complex interfaces such as those found in modern mp3 players. Sixsmith also talks about the importance of designing systems with the dementia patient’s experience in mind, and not that of the people taking care of them.

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For videos and discussion on the baseball robots, advertising on the moon and Evolta’s new adventure, visit the Robots Forum.

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August 29th, 2008

Robots: Bacteria-Propelled Microrobots

In this episode we look at bacteria-propelled microrobots which, in the future, could be used for sensing or drug delivery inside the liquid environments of the human body, such as the urinary tract, eyeball cavity, ear and cerebrospinal fluid. With Prof. Metin Sitti from Carnegie Mellon University, we’ll be hearing about the science and challenges behind harnessing living organisms to robots at the microscale. Gastroenterologist Dr. Mark Schattner then gives us his medical view on in-body robots and how they could by useful in his day-in, day-out tasks.

Metin Sitti

Prof. Metin Sitti is the director of the Nanorobotics Laboratory at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, USA.

With all the micro and nano scale technologies swimming, crawling, running and climbing out of his lab, he’s become an expert at mimicking the physics of the tiny exhibited by natural systems such as climbing geckos, water-running lizards or water striders. Previously featured in a Talking Robots interview, these bio-inspired technologies have pushed the limits of today’s robot locomotion.



One of Sitti’s aims is now to miniaturize a robot to the microscale, so that it can in the future navigate in the human body for directed drug-delivery and sensing. However, instead of building the locomotion in hardware, he decided to attach a robot to an organism, which was already perfectly capable of flagellating through liquid: bacteria. In this episode we concentrate on Sitti’s latest developments in bacteria-propelled micro-robots and how they can be controlled by changing their chemical environment (see video1 and video2) .

In other related projects, Sitti is currently developing an endoscopic microcapsule which will be able to stick to a patient’s intestine on demand.

Mark Schattner

Dr. Mark Schattner is a gastroenterologist with a special interest in therapeutic endoscopy and specialized nutrition support for cancer patients at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

He gives us his medical view on how robots could in the future be useful to ensure non-invasive diagnosis and treatment for his patients with concrete applications and examples. Interestingly, the barriers in getting these robots out of the labs and into the clinics are not so much ethical, but just like any other new medical technology, the lengthy pipeline to prove its safeness and usefulness in human beings.

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Latest News:

Check out the Robots Forum for pictures, links, videos and some ongoing discussion for this episode’s news, including the first rat-brain robot, the flying and ground based robot teams in the UK’s Grand Challenge as well as the ESA’s new Mars rover.

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April 25th, 2008

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Neurobotic Prosthetics
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In this episode of Talking Robots we speak with Yoky Matsuoka who is the director of the Neurobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. Boosted by her nomination as MacArthur Fellow she has been recognized as a leader in the emerging field of neurobotics. With her team, she’s been focused on understanding how the central nervous system coordinates musculoskeletal action and how robotic technology can enhance the mobility of people with manipulation disabilities.

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March 28th, 2008

Talking Robots Podcast LogoTalking Robots: Therapy Robots for Autism
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In this episode we interview Kerstin Dautenhahn who is Research Professor in the School of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at University of Hertfordshire in the UK, where she is a coordinator of the Adaptive Systems Research Group. Autism is a developmental disorder affecting around 91 people in every 10,000, mainly causing difficulties in social interactions, communication and imagination. Using therapy robots in the AuRoRA project, Dautenhahn has been pushing autistic children to learn essential social skills such as turn taking, joint attention and imitation. Armed with a lot of patience and zeal, her team has been adapting their robots and therapy sessions to each individual child, whether it’s about playing with wheeled robots or Dautenhahn’s toddler-sized Kaspar humanoid. She also presents her new project on Interactive RObotic social MEdiators as Companions (IROMEC) which looks at how autistic children can learn to cooperate and interact with each other through the introduction of a robotic mediator.

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