Robot As Doctor

Next generation of physician will be a robot. As physician-guided robots routinely operate on patients at most major hospitals, the next generation robot could eliminate a surprising element from the scenario—the doctor.

Feasibility studies have demonstrated that a robot—without any human assistance—can locate a man-made lesion in simulated human organs, guide a device to the lesion and take multiple samples during a single session.

The researchers believe that as the technology is further developed, autonomous robots could some day perform other simple surgical tasks.
“Earlier this year we demonstrated that a robot directed by artificial intelligence can on its own locate simulated calcifications and cysts in simulated breast tissue with high repeatability and accuracy,” says Kaicheng Liang, a former student of Stephen Smith, director of the Duke University Ultrasound Transducer Group.

The Duke team combined a souped-up version of an existing robot arm with an ultrasound system. The ultrasound serves as the robot’s “eyes” by collecting data from its scan and locating its target. The robot is “controlled” not by a physician, but by an artificial intelligence program that takes the real-time 3-D information, processes it and gives the robot specific commands to perform.

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