Telerobotic systems already allow surgeons in one location to control robotic surgical tools in another, so they can perform operations at a distance. A new proximity-sensing system, however, could make such procedures safer and more precise than ever.
In typical telerobotic surgical setups, the surgeon views the incision on a video screen, moving their fingers to correspondingly move robotic manipulator “fingers” or other implements in the remotely-located operating room.
Not only does this technology make it possible for a surgeon in one city to operate on a patient in another, but it can also be used on patients at the surgeon’s own location, helping to smooth out their hand tremors while performing delicate procedures. The systems therefore often incorporate haptic feedback, in which the operator can feel the amount of force that they’re applying to the patient’s bodily tissues, via vibrations that are applied to their fingertips.
That said, in the case of particularly fragile tissue, the surgeon may already be applying too much pressure when they first remotely “touch” it. And it was with this problem in mind that a team at Texas A&M University created the experimental new system.