The µRALP project is focused at advancing the state of the art in laser phonomicrosurgeries, which currently relies completely on the dexterity of surgeons who must operate through a microscope, control the laser aiming directly by hand, and deal with the associated poor ergonomics of the operating setup. µRALPwill also advance contemporary experimental systems, which have limited application range due to dependency on an external microscope with direct line of sight to the operating area. These advancements will come with the creation of a novel teleoperated surgical system based on a micro-robot end effector and a custom endoscope that will bring novel imaging and surgical technologies to the inside of the patient's body, eliminating the need for the surgical microscope and its associated requirement for direct line of sight to the surgical site. This new system will bring unprecedented levels of accessibility and precision to laser microsurgeries, allowing operations not previously possible with current technology. It will expand the surgical site imaging and laser control dimensionality to 3D, and augment surgeons' capabilities by providing fine aiming control, real-time visualization of tumor tissue, and a safety system able to predict and avoid surgical errors. In addition, it will provide the surgeons with an ergonomic and information-rich operating environment, which will result from research into novel surgeon-machine interfaces and augmented reality systems.
To realize this concept, the research partners will focus on accomplishing the following objectives:
- The engineering of a new dexterous micro-robotic endoscope end-effector for precise laser power delivery in minimally invasive surgeries. This system will control the surgical laser displacements from the immediate vicinity of the surgical site.
- The creation of an intuitive and information-rich augmented reality man-machine interface for assisted teleoperation of the micro-robotic tool during laser microsurgeries, including real-time surgical guidance based on pre- and intraoperative surgical plans. This goal will generate designs and experimental results related to:
- A novel assistive teleoperation interface that supports informed decisions;
- A new laser visual servoing system for precise depth estimation and laser tracking;
- An augmented reality surgical interface based on accurate registration of preoperative images.
- The study and development of new micro-optomechatronic technologies for intraoperative real-time cancer tissue visualization based on fluorescence.
- The creation of a cognitive supervisory system capable of learning and predicting the changing characteristics of the surgical site during laser procedures. This will generate a novel class of supervisory safety system for laser microsurgeries; one which will complement rule-based systems by detecting unforeseen surgical situations that would otherwise pass unnoticed.