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Boffins hack Kinect to perform robo-surgery

Hands free hack’n’slash
Thu Jan 20 2011, 15:58

MICROSOFT'S GESUTRE CONTROL Kinect technology has been hacked by researchers to perform robotic surgery.

The team of robo-boffins at the University of Washington's Bio Robotics Lab have adapted the Vole's hands free technology to help perform surgical procedures.

Okay, we have taken a certain amount of poetic license there. The hack doesn't actually allow surgeons to use Kinect for hands free operations. That's surely some years off yet. What the researchers have done is add force feedback so surgeons have an added sense when performing robotics assisted surgery.

"For robotics-assisted surgeries, the surgeon has no sense of touch right now," said Howard Chizeck, University of Washington professor of electrical engineering.

"What we're doing is using that sense of touch to give information to the surgeon, like 'you don't want to go here'."

Hardly reassuring words, but the team reckons the set up could save $50,000 on the standard rig used to perform non-invasive surgery. That requires an array of very complex remotely controlled surgical instruments, cameras in tubes and joysticks that are far more convoluted than your bog standard Xbox 360 controller.

That next generation equipment isn't cheap but the surgeon's hands are tied because they're relying on tiny video displays to make sure they're not cutting through vital organs.

"We could define basically a force field around, say, a liver," said Chizeck. "If the surgeon got too close, he would run into that force field and it would protect the object he didn't want to cut."

The medical researchers at the University of Washington hope that the technology can be shrunk in the future so it can be used to help in disaster relief settings or on battlefields. µ


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