Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Part H, Journal of engineering in medicine vol:219 issue:4 pages:293-302
The research reported in this paper aims at applying the human handwriting skill to improve and facilitate the control of laser-assisted laparoscopic surgery operations performed by gynaecological surgeons. For the purpose, a laparoscopic robot was interfaced with a digitizing tablet. This interface, further called the intuitive writing interface (IWI), directly converts the hand trajectory, handwritten on the tablet, into an input signal to the robot. It replaces the traditional complex manipulations performed by the surgeon during manual laparoscopic surgery by natural handwriting. It provides the surgeon with an intuitive 'what-you-draw-is-what-you-cut' control facility by employing his/her familiar handwriting skills to control the laser ablation process accurately. The system was successfully built and tested in vitro. Performance tests on the robot resulted in tracking errors in the order of 1 mm in the target plane at an ablation speed of 20 mm/s. The high accuracy of the system was successfully demonstrated by cutting characters 4 mm high on an apple. These results indicate that laser ablation performance is upgraded by the IWI to the accuracy levels of human handwriting, which is much higher than can be obtained with manual laser laparoscopy. Safety features include the use of pen contact with the tablet as a safety switch, and back drivability in the robot joints for easy manual positioning and evacuation in case of emergency.