Remote-Controlled Robotic Hand Performs Breast Exams

A remote-controlled robotic hand will soon enable medical specialists to examine women from anywhere in the world. The robotic hand is controlled from a distance using a haptic glove, in which each finger is connected to a motion-sensing device. The operator's hand movements are relayed to the robotic hand, which mimics them perfectly.


(From Teleoperated Breast Examination Robot)

Developed at Michigan State University, the arm incorporates an ultrasound sensor; three video cameras make sure that the operator can get the best possible view of the procedure.

"Having the capability of ultrasound and palpation simultaneously is a major advantage," adds Ranjan Mukherjee, another member of the Michigan team. "Often the ultrasound and exam are done separately. But if the physician can look at the image and feel what he or she is seeing, that’s another huge advantage."

The next step for the teleoperated robotic breast examination system is clinical trials to demonstrate reliability. The device could be commercially available within the next five years.

The first reference to a telemedicine apparatus in science fiction (or anywhere else, for that matter) occurred in the remarkable short story The Machine Stops, published by E.M. Forster in 1910. As it happens, a woman is the first user of this machine, as she sits alone in her apartment:

"Kuno," she said, "I cannot come to see you. I am not well."

Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling, a thermometer was automatically laid upon her heart. She lay powerless. Cool pads soothed her forehead. Kuno had telegraphed to her doctor.
(Read more about the telemedicine apparatus)

Hopefully, the bedside manner of the robotic breast examination system will be better.

Pressure-sensitive skin would be a nice addition to this robot; see Robots Get Pressure-Sensitive Skin. Read more at Robot hand performs remote breast checks.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/7/2005)

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