Universities and research groups demonstrate interoperability among telesurgical systems around the world
Using the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, a new software protocol, nine research teams from universities and research institutes around the world collaborated to perform the first successful demonstration of multiple biomedical robots operated from different locations in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
In a 24-hour period, each participating group connected over the Internet and controlled robots at different locations, a recent article reports. The tests performed demonstrated how a wide variety of robot and controller designs can seamlessly interoperate, allowing researchers to work together easily and more efficiently.
Additionally, the demonstration evaluated the feasibility of robotic manipulation from multiple sites and was conducted to measure time and performance for evaluating laparoscopic surgical skills.
The new protocol was cooperatively developed by the University of Washington and SRI International, whose M7 surgical robot was used in the demonstration, to help standardize the way remotely operated robots are managed over the Internet.
"Although many telemanipulation systems have common features, there is currently no accepted protocol for connecting these systems," says SRI's Tom Low. "We hope this new protocol serves as a starting point for the discussion and development of a robust and practical Internet-type standard that supports the interoperability of future robotic systems."
The protocol will allow engineers and designers that usually develop technologies independently, to work collaboratively, determine which designs work best, encourage widespread adoption of the new communications protocol and help robotics research to evolve more rapidly.
It also points to the future of telesurgery—and the reality that surgeons will be able to perform a surgery remotely, in a different city, state, country or maybe even planet.
In addition, early adoption of this protocol internationally will encourage robotic systems to be developed with interoperability in mind and avoid future incompatibilities.
"We're very pleased with the success of the event in which almost all of the possible connections between operator stations and remote robots were successful. We were particularly excited that novel elements such as a simulated robot and an exoskeleton controller worked smoothly with the other remote manipulation systems," says Professor Blake Hannaford of the University of Washington.
The demonstration included the following organizations:
- SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif., USA
- University of Washington Biorobotics Lab (BRL), Seattle, Washington, USA
- University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), Bionics Lab, Santa
- Cruz, Calif., USA
- iMedSim, Interactive Medical Simulation Laboratory, Rensselaer
- Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, USA
- Korea University of Technology (KUT) BioRobotics Lab, Cheonan, South
- Chungcheong, South Korea
- Imperial College London (ICL), London, England
- Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Baltimore, Maryland, USA
- Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM), Munich, Germany
- Tokyo Institute of Technology (TOK), Tokyo, Japan
For more information regarding availability of the Interoperable Telesurgical Protocol, please visit: http://brl.ee.washington.edu/Research_Active/Interoperability/index.php/Main_Page 
For visuals of this demonstration, please visit: http://www.sri.com/news/ 
Sources: PR Newswire, Associated Press