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Open-Source Robot to Perform Surgery

A new surgical robot—developed by the army for use on battlefields—is light and relatively cheap. It also uses open-source software so it can be adapted to different medical uses.

What’s the Latest Development?

A new surgical robot called the Ravenoriginally developed by the army for battlefield surgery—is light and relatively inexpensive. It also runs Linux, an open-source software, so that different medical institutions can adapt the machine to different ends while sharing advances they find along the way. Harvard wants to use the machine to operate on a beating heart by compensating for the heart’s motion. Scientists at Berkeley will try teaching the robot to operate autonomously by mimicking surgeons.

What’s the Big Idea?

Since the Raven has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, doctors will be limited to operating on animals or cadavers for the time being. But as they experiment with the robot, researchers will be able to share their advances with other medical institutions and even crowdsource bug fixes to the software. The Raven exhibits impressive new hardware and also demonstrates how data exchange in the information age stands to revolutionize the way we receive our health care.

Photo credit: UC Santa Cruz


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