Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, maybe a hobby for some but for researchers in Sony and the Wyss Institute at Harvard it served as their main inspiration in their latest technological innovation yet. Their creation, a mini-RCM robot (miniature remote center of motion manipulator), is around the size of a tennis ball and is light as a coin.
Small yet capable
Don’t be fooled by this robot’s small size for it packs a punch when it comes to the capabilities that came built with it. To be able to scale it down to its size, Wyss Institute Associate Faculty member Robert Wood, Ph.D., and Sony’s Robotics Engineer Hiroyuki Suzuki used a manufacturing technique developed in Wood’s laboratory. Pop-Up MEMS (microelectrochemical systems) is a different manufacturing technique wherein the materials used are stacked and bonded atop each other. Then, they are cut with a laser following a specific pattern which lets the finished product have a three-dimensional finish – it ‘pops-up’ hence the name. This, according to the Wyss Institute’s Lindsay Brownell, makes the mass manufacturing of small and complex systems simpler.
In the case of this small robot surgeon, it has three linear actuators which are primarily used to control it as reported by Kris Holt on the website Engadget. With these, the robot is able to move upwards and downwards, rotate, and maneuver in different directions.
To test it out, the team of researchers tasked the small robot to a mock surgery. It passed with flying colors, being able to perform the operation on a mock retinal vein with no damage at all. This is only twice the size of a human hair strand’s thickness. It yielded a 68% accuracy rate which is more than that of a hand-operated tool that was pitted against it.
As Victor Tangermann of the website the_byte suggests, the small robot is seen as a viable replacement to current ones being used which are really massive and almost all the time occupy the operating theater.