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Research and Academics
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Nine International Research Teams Operate Multiple Biomedical Robots from Numerous Locations
Nine International Research Teams Operate Multiple Biomedical Robots from Numerous Locations
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Sep 18, 2009

More Research and Academics stories
Teams from the U.S., Europe and Asia demonstrate interoperation of nine telesurgical robots using protocol developed by University of Washington and SRI International researchers.

Using a new software convention called the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, nine research teams from universities and research institutes around the world recently collaborated on the first successful demonstration of multiple biomedical robots operated from different locations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Engineers from the University of Washington’s Biorobotics Laboratory helped develop the code and operated their Raven portable surgical robot during the demonstration.

In a 24-hour period, each participating group connected via the Internet and controlled robots at different locations. The tests demonstrated how a wide variety of robot and controller designs can seamlessly interoperate, allowing researchers to work together easily and more efficiently. In addition, the demonstration evaluated the feasibility of robotic manipulation from multiple sites, and was conducted to measure time and performance for evaluating laparoscopic surgical skills, a minimally invasive technique using a small incision.

The new protocol was cooperatively developed by engineers at the UW and SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif., to standardize the way remotely operated robots are managed via the Internet.

“We’re very pleased with the success of the event in which almost all of the possible connections between operator stations and remote robots were successful,” said Blake Hannaford, UW professor of electrical engineering and director of the UW’s Biorobotics Lab. “We were particularly excited that novel elements such as a simulated robot and an exoskeleton controller worked smoothly with the other remote manipulation systems.”

The protocol aims to allow engineers and designers that usually develop technologies independently to work collaboratively, determine which designs work best, encourage widespread adoption of the new communications protocol and help robotics research to evolve more rapidly. Early adoption of this protocol internationally will encourage robotic systems to be developed with interoperability in mind to avoid future incompatibilities, researchers said.

“Although many telemanipulation systems have common features, there is currently no accepted protocol for connecting these systems,” said SRI’s Tom Low. “We hope this new protocol serves as a starting point for the discussion and development of a robust and practical Internet-type standard that supports the interoperability of future robotic systems.”

Organizations that participated in the demonstration included:

  • University of Washington, Biorobotics Lab - Seattle
  • SRI International - Menlo Park, Calif.
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Bionics Lab - Santa Cruz, Calif.
  • iMedSim, Interactive Medical Simulation Laboratory, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Troy, N.Y.
  • Korea University of Technology, BioRobotics Lab - Cheonan, South Chungcheong, South Korea
  • Imperial College London - London
  • Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore
  • Technische Universität München - Munich, Germany
  • Tokyo Institute of Technology - Tokyo

For more information regarding availability of the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, please visit:

For visuals of this demonstration, please visit:

About SRI International
Silicon Valley-based SRI International is one of the world’s leading independent research and technology development organizations. SRI, which was founded by Stanford University as Stanford Research Institute in 1946 and became independent in 1970, has been meeting the strategic needs of clients and partners for more than 60 years. Perhaps best known for its invention of the computer mouse and interactive computing, SRI has also been responsible for major advances in networking and communications, robotics, drug discovery and development, advanced materials, atmospheric research, education research, economic development, national security, and more. The nonprofit institute performs sponsored research and development for government agencies, businesses, and foundations. SRI also licenses its technologies, forms strategic alliances, and creates spin-off companies. In 2008, SRI’s consolidated revenues, including its wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, Sarnoff Corporation, were approximately $490 million.

Hannah Hickey
University of Washington
P:  206-543-2580

Lindsay Sheppard
SRI International
P:  650-859-2491

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