What you're seeing in the above photo is a miniature manipulator -- and no, we are not talking about your crazy ex-partner. Harvard researchers collaborated with Sony to build this teeny-tiny, origami-inspired surgical robot that can tackle surgical tasks on the micro-scale.
In order to make surgical procedures safer both for patients and doctors, the researchers built the robot, aiming for a future where surgical procedures are taken over by robots. And that future might be closer than you'd ever think before.
The robot is only big as a tennis ball and weighs as much as a penny, with a parallelogram-shaped platform serving as its main structure. The robot's three linear actuators are fixed to that platform and enable it to rotate, move up and down, extend and retract an attached tool. The best part is, the robot is a complete success and was actually able to perform a difficult mock surgical task.
During the teleoperated surgery, the team was able to get the robot to mimic the motion of a human hand moving a pen-like tool. One of the researchers looked through a microscope to trace a tiny square smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen and doing the same job, the robot was proved to be 68 percent more accurate, proving its "steadier hand".
In another experiment, the robot was able to perform a complex surgical procedure called retinal vein cannulation without causing any damage, successfully puncturing a tube twice the width of a human hair.
Since machines that are currently in use can take up an entire room and handle comparatively larger tools, this robot, with its tinyness and easy setup, is very good news. The team wants to further improve the design by making it more powerful and precise.
The research was published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence.