Today’s surgical robots enable clinicians to perform highly precise procedures in regions of the human body that would otherwise be beyond reach. However, the full potential of robotic technology in medicine and surgery has only just begun to be realized: surgical robots normally operate under direct human control with no autonomy. This talk will describe recent advances in supervised surgical robot autonomy, and show how these advances immensely improve the quality of procedures like laser microsurgery, providing surgeons with superhuman capabilities. The overarching hypothesis of this research is that increasing the level of autonomy of surgical robots will enhance the quality, safety, and cost effectiveness of many procedures, just as automation has benefitted manufacturing in the past. Realizing this vision will require further advances in artificial reasoning and decision-making, as well as in robot design and sensing; the autonomous medical robots of the future will have to dynamically evaluate the status of the procedure and decide what action should be performed next, as well as being robust to changing and unexpected circumstances and variations in patient anatomy. In my talk, I will give an overlook on how AI will enable us to tackle these challenges head on, helping us create smart, task-specific surgical tools.
Loris Fichera joined the WPI Department of Computer Science and Robotics Program in the Fall of 2017 as an Assistant Professor. He received a BSc and MSc in Computer Engineering from the University of Catania, Italy, in 2008 and 2011 respectively, and a PhD in Robotics, Cognition and Interaction Technologies from the University of Genoa and the Italian Institute of Technology in 2015. Prior to joining WPI, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.
Prof. Fichera is the recipient of the 2016 Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Computer-Aided Surgery (ISCAS) and was best paper and best medical robotics paper award finalist at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in 2015.