It’s the start of a new robotic era: Robotic-assisted surgeries may be a more common scene in future operating rooms. A team of Johns Hopkins University researchers have developed a medical “STAR,” short for Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, which recently performed the first laparoscopic surgery—without human help. The procedure was performed on pig tissues, and the robot excelled at suturing two ends of an intestine—“one of the most intricate and delicate tasks in abdominal surgery,” according to a Johns Hopkins report. The medical process requires a high level of repetitive motion and precision.
"Our findings show that we can automate one of the most intricate and delicate tasks in surgery: the reconnection of two ends of an intestine. The STAR performed the procedure in four animals and it produced significantly better results than humans performing the same procedure," said senior author Axel Krieger, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering.
The remarkable news sheds light on the potential of robotics in the medical field, especially in the face of a challenging global health crisis. During the height of the global pandemic, hospitals and clinics started deploying robots for a range of tasks to help reduce exposure to pathogens. Amid staffing shortages, delivery care robots are lending helping robotic arm to alleviate medical teams, such as nursing staff.
Could robots start playing a bigger role in healthcare settings? While reports suggest there is much more progress underway for robotics in the medical ecosystem, several standards support their current evolution.
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, guides the safety and performance of robots used in surgeries in the American National Standard (ANS), ANSI/AAMI/IEC 80601-2-77, Medical Electrical Equipment – Part 2-77: Particular Requirements for the Basic Safety and Essential Performance of Robotically Assisted Surgical Equipment. The ANS applies to the basic safety and essential performance of robotically assisted surgical equipment (RASE) and robotically assisted surgical systems (RASS), referred to as ME equipment and ME systems together with their interface conditions. This particular standard does not apply to X-ray-based image-guided radiotherapy equipment.
Communication skills are vital for any functioning society, even when it comes to robotics. A working group from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, developed a standard that helps simplify programming and extend the information processing and reasoning capabilities of robots. The standard ultimately helps facilitate clear robot-to-robot and human-to-robot communication. IEEE Standard Ontologies For Robotics And Automation defines a core ontology that specifies the most general concepts, relations, and axioms of robotics and automation (R&A). The standard is intended as a reference for knowledge representation and reasoning in robots, as well as a formal reference vocabulary for communicating knowledge about R&A between robots and humans. This standard is composed of a core ontology about R&A, called CORA, together with other ontologies that give support to CORA.
Outside of the medical field, robots also play a pivotal role in different type of operations, from search and rescue to shop floor assistant. ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator, published ASTM E2853-12(2021), Standard Test Method for Evaluating Emergency Response Robot Capabilities: Human-System Interaction (HSI): Search Tasks: Random Mazes With Complex Terrain. Additionally, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer standard, published SS-006-1995, Standard Vocabulary for Space Automation and Robotics, which aids in promoting mutual understanding of the vocabulary and acronyms used by the space science and engineering community in the development and use of automation and robotic systems. It contains approximately 200 terms which are presented in logical groupings with cross references.
Read more about how standards developers support robotics and their evolutionary roles in other settings, including industrial shop floors: