Da Vinci Surgical Robot Gains Eye Control

The world's most sophisticated robot surgeon takes one great blink forward

Da Vinci Robot
John B. Carnett

Robotics and surgery continue to intertwine with new research coming out of the Imperial College London. Computer scientists there have been improving upon the already tremendously sophisticated Da Vinci surgical robot. Currently, to operate the machine, a surgeon sits in a console from which she peers into the patient through a fiber optic camera. She manipulates the finely-tuned arms of the device with a set of fingertip controls. What the researchers are adding to the system is an attachment which can track the surgeon's eye movements and present a three-dimensional map of the area of the patient at which the surgeon is looking. It does this by combining live imagery with a collection of scans of the patient taken prior to the surgery.

What's more, the software then uses both the map data and the eye feedback to present a static image when the surgeon is operating in an area of the body which is moving. The robot keeps its tools in sync with a beating heart, for example, but the surgeon sees only a still image, allowing for greater precision. It can even show tissue and vessels below and around the area to highlight healthy parts and reduce the potential for unnecessary cutting.