• Question: How do you know if robot operators, that work in hospitals (or that will be in the future) work well? who do you test it on before using it with patients?

    Asked by cantarellia to Amit, Emily, Jo, Martin, Paige on 19 Mar 2012.
    • Photo: Paige Brown

      Paige Brown answered on 19 Mar 2012:

      This might be a good question for Martin! Robot operators must have to be tested very well before they are ever used in hospitals or with patients. Right now, surgeons used robotics (I believe) to do surgeries, but the doctors have full control over the robotics. In other words, it isn’t robots with artificial intelligence that are working without the doctors. Doctors probably test and use these robotics tools on ‘dummy’ surgeries and perhaps animal surgeries before using them with human patients.

    • Photo: Martin Wallace

      Martin Wallace answered on 19 Mar 2012:

      I’m not too sure about this. My company hasn’t made any of these robot operators yet but it might be something we could get involved in in the future.
      At the moment there are robot surgeons being developed but they don’t work on their own, they need an expert that can control them from outside the operating theatre. Often there are experts in different types of operations who are able to achieve things in operations that other people can’t do because they haven’t had the practice, but if they live a long way from the patient it would be impossible for them to help that person. This is where a robot surgeon could come in, with the expert able to control the robot over the internet from the other side of the world.
      In order to test the robot, however, it might be necessary to create an artificial person that contained all the necessary organs and body parts you would want the robot to operate on. This would have to be very realistic with all the different tissues and details that a real body has – which means it might be even more difficult to make this than it is to make the actual robot.

      Something else they could test it on might seem quite gruesome. Some people leave their bodies to scientific research when they die, this enables medical researchers to develop better ways of curing people so it is a very thoughtful thing to do. It might seem quite nasty but it is probably the safest way of testing a robot like this, because the body wouldn’t be able to feel pain and would behave in a similar way.

    • Photo: Joanne Davies

      Joanne Davies answered on 20 Mar 2012:

      Excellent question cantarellia!

      We write a protocol first – this is a plan on exactly how we are going to run our experiment.

      The protocol tells us exactly what we have to do, how we have to do it and the results that must be achieved.

      We make sure (validate) the new devices work as they are supposed to.

      We validate things by checking everything.

      We check that the all the requirements of the protocol have been met.
      We check that the results we have predicted are correct.
      We check, check and check again and we keep on checking to make sure we get exactly the same results every time.

      Once we can prove these robots work exactly as they are supposed to we perform trials on real patients who give their consent and want to help. These are called ‘clinical trials’ and we check, check and check again that the robots are working correctly before we can put our devices on the market for hospitals and sick people all over the world.