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Researchers developing next generation surgical robots

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Researchers say these robots will incorporate senses comparable to humans

A major international research collaboration is developing the next generation of surgical robots.

Researchers from King’s College London School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences are part of Functionally Accurate Robotic Surgery (FAROS), which is developing surgical robots that access a range of sensing capabilities to master complex surgical tasks autonomously.

Researchers say these robots will incorporate senses comparable or even superior to humans by learning to sense through the tissue, they feel, listen, interpret and act.

The FAROS robot is designed to provide superior functional accuracy as surgeon-like autonomous behaviour with physical and cognitive intelligence enabled.

The international research project foresees the following key elements: non-visual sensors that form a multifaceted representation of the surgical task and functional models that relate signals to functional parameters and controllers.

Tom Vercauteren, professor of interventional image computing at King’s College London, who is developing the artificial intelligence system for the robots, said: “By endowing the surgical robot with superhuman sensing capabilities and taking advantage of the AI ability to process massive amounts of data, we will enable safer and more trustworthy autonomous behaviour in robotic surgery.

“This will mean safer surgery for patients and increased confidence for clinicians.”

Three other universities are involved in the project along with King’s College London.

These include KU Leuven in Belgium, which is coordinating the project and driving the work in non-visual sensing, Sorbonne University in France, with a strong role in robotics via the ISIR laboratory and Balgrist University Hospital in Switzerland, which will work interdisciplinary to bridge robotics, computer science and clinical research.

Emmanuel Vander Poorten, associate professor in surgical robotics, haptic interfacing, medical devices and surgical training at KU Leuven, said: “It is this physical intelligence that FAROS aims to grasp and embed in the next generation of surgical robots.

“With FAROS, we will push to the limit as we draw from a wide range of sensors and learn from all past experiences to optimise functional outcome and ultimately patient’s health.”

The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

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