Young Boy Gets a 3D Printed Robotic Hand

February 8, 2013

Emerging technologies work together to give this little boy a chance to grab onto life with both hands–

Read the full article about Liam’s 3D printed robotic hand at Tech Crunch. It’s pretty amazing that technology has made something possible that just a few years ago would have been science fiction. What other amazing advances in technology, medical or otherwise, have you seen recently?

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Exoskeleton Robot Powered by Brain Waves

November 21, 2012

When we talk about computer hardware interfaces, we typically mean the ones we physically interact with —  keyboards, monitors, touch screens. But researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on a more direct interface, a computer to brain interface, that will allow people with disabilities to control robotic exoskeletons merely by thinking about it.

Robotic system may help stroke patients
By Elizabeth Landau

Melody Moore Jackson, director of the BrainLab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is working on solutions for patients who can’t move parts of their body anymore. Her goal is to create systems that enable people to use artificial limbs just by thinking.

Her research group is working on developing an exoskeleton, a robotic structure that moves when a person’s brain tells it to move.

The scientists have so far focused on the arm. A patient puts his or her arm inside the robotic arm, which responds to the person’s brain signals. So when the patients thinks about moving it to reach a target, and the arm follows the command.

“With this experiment we also learned that we can make neuroplastic change — we can change the brain signals that control the arm,” she said.

The early results are promising, she said.

Read the full article at CNN. How else do you see brain-computer interfaces impacting robotics?


Robots Prep 1 Million Doses of Medicine

October 22, 2012

Medicine strives not only to cure our sicknesses and make us feel better but also to prevent us from getting sick in the first place. The pharmaceutical industry has employed robots to help fill and package medicine, taking extra care to make sure the doses are prepared in a sterile environment and using automation to safe guard against contamination.

Robotic IV Automation (RIVA) System Has Provided More Than 1 Million Medication Doses Safely and Accurately

RIVA eliminates cross-contamination and errors in delicate medication preparations. The exacting robotic system not only automates crucial compounding processes that are vulnerable to human error, but uses UV pulse disinfection for medication bags and vials to eliminate bacterial and fungal contamination. The device’s advanced technology also provides clean air flow that is critical to ensuring a sterile environment for compounding. RIVA’s safety record has been demonstrated by more than 50,000 routine quality control checks at 27 RIVA sites that have found no contamination in compounds produced by the machines.

RIVA systems have been installed in hospital pharmacies and compounding pharmacies, both of which need to produce high volumes of made-to-order medications safely and accurately. RIVA allows pharmacies to prepare compounded medications in compliance with the most stringent pharmacy regulations, with the added benefits of significantly reducing the cost-per-dose and reducing vulnerability to medication shortages. The system provides a complete electronic audit trail that identifies every product being used, weighs the medications pre- and post-mixture and labels every dispensed product.

Read the full brief here at Robotics Tomorrow. What are other ways you see robots being used to increase the safety and productivity of the pharmaceutical industry?


Automating the Lab

October 16, 2012

Lab work is a delicate job, but robots are proving that they have the gentle touch that’s needed. From sorting to cell culturing, automation helps satisfy the demanding nature of developing medical work. Robotics Online’s contributing editor Bennett Brumson explores the recent trends in various industries that require lab work and how robots are meeting the challenge.

Robots in the Lab
by Bennett Brumson

Henry Loos, Application Engineer with Applied Robotics Inc. (Glenville, New York) says “Laboratory, life science and pharmaceutical robots perform many mundane and error-prone tacks such as mixing, picking, placing and sampling. More importantly, robots perform tasks in environments hazardous to humans, either biologically or pharmacologically.”

Error-proofing is also on the mind of Stäubli’s David Arceneaux, who says, “Humans can make mistakes. Taking the human element out of the equation and utilizing robotic automation is a viable solution” to preventing errors in medical device and pharmaceutical production.

The inherent flexibility of robotics lends itself to pharmaceutical, biomedical and life science applications, says, Joseph Fox, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Systematix Inc. (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada).

“Flexibility, the ability to use capital over again for different kinds of elements in a product family or different products all together, is the biggest trend in laboratory, pharmaceutical and life science applications. In the next three years, the robotics industry will build on that flexibility,” says Fox. “Flexible systems are the norm not the exception in life sciences, pharmaceutical, biomedical applications. The ability to reuse capital equipment has become much more important. Manufacturing costs in the life sciences business are more focused on mutual manufacturing activity.”

Flexibility of capital equipment has become vital in the life sciences industry, Fox says. “Flexibility is necessary, especially in medical device manufacturing because those devices have become more complicated, smaller and utilize very sophisticated materials that have very precise requirements. The industry continually drives towards flexibility, to spread costs of robots over many different kinds of products.”

Read the full article at Robotics Online. What other extra-care-required applications do you see robotics growing into?


One Step Closer to a Robotic Butler

October 5, 2012

Personal robots are still a thing of the far off future — but you might be seeing a version of Rosie the Robot in hospitals and manufacturing capacities sooner than that. Just another step closer to robots working in close, safe proximity to people.

Read the full article at IEEE Spectrum.


Tiny Magnetic Robots may be New Cancer-Fighting Hero

October 3, 2012

Each field of robotics has its own challenges and obstacles that require a great amount of creativity from R&D, but some of the most unique challenges arise in the field of medical robotics. Here ‘safety’ takes on a whole new meaning, and the problems of size are miniscule. Still, as robotics offers a brand new window into the human body, scientists and engineers are working relentlessly to pioneer this frontier.

Magnetic Microbots to Fight Cancer
by Sylvain Martel

In a room next door, my engineering graduate students and I held our breath. We were testing a program designed to manipulate the machine [MRI]’s magnetic forces, which would guide the bead like a remote-controlled submarine. Or so we hoped.

On a computer screen, the bead appeared as a square white tracking icon perched on the gray, wormlike image of the scanned artery. We stared at the square and waited. Nothing. Seconds ticked by, and still the bead refused to budge. Then suddenly the room erupted in cheers as we clapped our hands to our mouths and pointed at the screen. There, the bead was hopping up and down the artery, tagging every waypoint we had plotted.

That was the first time anyone had steered an object wirelessly through the blood vessel of a living creature. The experiment convinced us that we could engineer miniature machines to navigate the vast circulatory system of the human body. The microrobots would be able to travel deep inside the body, cruising our tiniest blood vessels to places that catheters can’t go and performing tasks that would be impossible without invasive procedures.

It’s easy to imagine many such tasks—delicate surgeries, diagnostic tests, and the installation of stents and other artificial structures. But the first real application will be treating cancers. Today’s cancer drugs work by circulating throughout the body, killing healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Even antibody-equipped drugs designed to target cancer cells don’t always hit their marks. Injecting drugs into a tumor is out of the question because the pressure would cause cells to spew from it like a volcano, spreading the disease elsewhere. So why not deploy robots to deliver the medicine?

Read the full article at IEEE Spectrum, complete with a run down of several medical bots in development. What other sorts of health problems do you see micro-robots tackling?


Meshworm – A Soft Robot Inspired by Earthworms

August 17, 2012

We’ve featured soft robotics before, but here’s something new — Unlike previous soft robots that were controlled with air pressure, this new “Meshworm” from MIT moves by contracting a wire coil around different segments of the robot’s body. Researchers were inspired by the muscle structures of earthworms and see many applications for this sort of robotic peristalsis, from maintenance to search and rescue to medical to automotive.

Read the full article from MIT News here.