Research Topics

Accomplishing µRALPobjectives will require fundamental research in:
  1. Micro-mechatronic systems for minimally invasive surgeries (MIS);
  2. Optical microtechnologies for medicine;
  3. Surgeon skills augmentation;
  4. Adaptive control systems for medical robots;
  5. Computer vision for soft tissue surgery; and
  6. Intelligent systems for safety supervision in medical applications.

The new knowledge derived from this research collaboration will also be applicable and benefit a wide range of microsurgery interventions, both laser and otherwise, expanding the impact of this research beyond the specific demonstrator application in phonomicrosurgery.

Micro-mechatronic systems for MIS

A novel class of surgical laser device will be created; one presenting high safety, high laser aiming resolution, high accuracy, high dexterity, and proper dimensions for MIS. Advances in this area will generate a new motorized micromechanical system for minimally invasive laser phonomicrosurgery. This new device will be designed for flexibility and will possibly be applicable to a large number of procedures, changing the standard in laser microsurgeries. It will enable high-level automation and the implementation of adaptive control algorithms for improving the quality and safety of laser microsurgeries.

Optical micro-technologies for medicine

This research will also generate a new class of endoscopic systems for real-time cancer tissue detection and imaging. It will further research efforts in cancer imaging based on fluorescence, investigating and developing engineering solutions that will lead to the creation of a novel micro-optomechatronic cancer imaging device fit for minimally invasive laser phonomicrosurgeries. This device will create the potential for unprecedented levels of efficiency in this medical procedure, providing real-time guidance information for the surgeons and helping in guaranteeing total tumor removal with minimal collateral damage.

Surgeon skills augmentation

New interfaces featuring intuitive control, augmented reality and automatic routines will enhance surgeons' skills and result in the creation of a highly precise surgical system. Motion scaling and tremor cancellation will enable very fine manual control of the surgical laser, yielding safer medical procedures under direct surgeon control. In addition, medical interventions will be sped-up through autonomous task execution under surgeon supervision.

Surgeon skills augmentation will also tackled through the development of an augmented reality surgical environment; one which will improve surgical quality and efficacy through robust real-time registration of pre- and intraoperative assistive data on the live endoscopic video of the surgical area. This augmented reality system will provide real-time surgical guidance by displaying contextual information and surgical cues directly in the surgeon's field of view.

Adaptive control systems for medical robots

Automation and adaptive control will provide safety, robustness, and precision to laser phonomicrosurgeries. Research in this area will focus on improving surgical outcome by minimizing the chances of accidental damages to healthy tissue, and by precisely executing surgical plans with the help of a real-time laser visual servoing system. This research will advance the state of the art in the field by creating control systems that are more flexible and offer expanded workspace dimensionality in respect to those currently available. Novel algorithms for planning, calibration and real-time registration of surgical actions will be developed to create an accurate and robust laser microsurgery system able to deal with the 3D surgical environment and the dynamic changes in the surgical system configuration.

Computer vision for soft tissue surgery

Research in this area will help advance the current state of the art in augmented reality for surgical systems by dealing with soft tissue deformations, by creating new algorithms for fusing data from different imaging modalities, and by developing novel technologies to enable the first AR system for phonomicrosurgery displaying in real-time both preoperative and intraoperative data.

Intelligent systems for safety supervision in medical applications

The new robotic laser microsurgery system will achieve significant improvements in surgical safety through real-time automatic information processing. On one side, the system will incorporate of a supervisory cognitive system capable of learning and predicting the continuous appearance changes of the surgical site observed during the operations. This will be used to generate safety alarms if an unexpected situation is detected. On the other side, the new system will offer predictive and reactive safety features based, respectively, on risk maps defined online (i.e., "safe" and "danger" zones), and on hard-programmed safety rules. These novel features will guarantee a high safety level during microsurgeries by automatically turning off the laser when a dangerous situation is detected.