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Braincase
07-05-2005, 01:16 PM
No Fun Team Strikes Again! (http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7630)

Robot hand performs remote breast checks
15:41 05 July 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Will Knight

http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/9999/99997630F1.JPG
The remote-controlled robot arm – directed from across the room in this instance – prepares to examine simulated breast tissue (Image: Kurt Stepnitz, Michigan State University)

Life-saving breast examinations could soon be performed by a robotic hand that combines ultrasound with an artificial sense of touch.

The robotic breast examiner was devised by researchers at Michigan State University in the US. They say it will enable a medical specialist to examine women from a remote location, perhaps even from the other side of the world.

"Just because you’re located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or even Botswana, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a sophisticated diagnostic or therapeutic procedure," says Carol Slomski, a surgeon at Michigan State University, who helped design the system.

The robot hand is remotely controlled by means of a haptic "glove", in which each finger is connected to a motion-sensing device. The operator's hand movements are then measured and sent via a computer to the artificial hand, which almost instantly mimics the operator's moves.

Advantageous combination
The robotic grasper also measures the consistency of objects in its grasp by means of feedback to its motors. And this tactile information is fee back to the mechanical glove giving the wearer an artificial sensation of touch.

The arm also incorporates an ultrasound sensor as well as three video cameras, to give the expert a good view of the procedure.

"Having the capability of ultrasound and palpation simultaneously is a major advantage," adds Ranjan Mukherjee, another member of the Michigan team. "Often the ultrasound and exam are done separately. But if the physician can look at the image and feel what he or she is seeing, that’s another huge advantage."

Data delay
Mukherjee says the next stage is to conduct clinical trials, which should show how reliable the system is. But he believes it could be five years before the system becomes commercially available.

However, some experts are doubtful that such a system would work in practice. "Tele-operated robots have a big problem with delay," says William Harwin, at the University of Reading in the UK, and the sensitivity of touch is not as good.

He suggests a better way to perform remote examinations is to perform the data gathering and expert analysis one after the other. "A more realistic model in principal is to gather data from the remote site, under direction from the clinical base," he explains, and then transfer it the remote expert, who could then use virtual reality tools to interpret it.

Lzen
07-05-2005, 01:25 PM
Yeah, I'm sure women are gonna want that big ole machine touching their breasts. Riiiiight.

seclark
07-05-2005, 01:27 PM
i'd give my right arm for one of those.
sec

Braincase
07-05-2005, 01:28 PM
Yeah, I'm sure women are gonna want that big ole machine touching their breasts. Riiiiight.

Yeah. Limited market - only women that will use it are those that have to choose between the machine & gochiefs.