Computer-aided Teleoperation System for Millimetre-scale Magnetic Soft Capsule Robot in Minimally Invasive Healthcare and Targeted Intervention

Project: Research

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Millimetre-scale shape-morphing robots promises to bring transformative improvement to the existing healthcare paradigm. They access hard-to-reach regions buried deep inside human body to perform minimally invasive diagnosis and therapy. Particularly in the peri- and post-pandemic eras, these untethered and wirelessly controlled robots offer unique benefits for infection control. First, they need minimal or even no cut of human body to prevent cross-infection and contamination between the in vivo and ex vivo environments. Second, they are remotely controlled by external signals such as magnetic field and allow for teleoperation with a safe distance between patients and doctors. However, the prohibitive upfront learning curve for untrained users to use these robots with existing setup discourages healthcare professionals and hinders the adoption of these novel robotic systems in real-world clinical scenarios. This research proposes to develop an intuitive computer-aided teleoperation system for a millimetre-scale soft capsule robot. A standalone system with both hardware and software is developed. It builds a direct and intuitive linkage between user inputs and robot actions, with assistant subroutines for enhanced accuracy and repeatability in teleoperation. Users need not worry about how the robot works, as all calculation, optimization, and implementation are carried out in real-time behind the scene. Instead, users concentrate on completing biomedical tasks using the robot as an enabling tool. A permanent magnet system is mounted at the tip of a multiple degree-of-freedom robotic manipulator. Compared with electromagnetic coil systems, this system offers the benefits of open workspace, high field strength, and low heat generation. Similar previous efforts have been made with rigid or tethered robots. But they lack the compatibility with versatile shape-morphing robots which have a wider catalogue of functionalities. This research fills this vacancy with a system that takes full advantages of the unique shape-morphing behaviours of soft untethered robots for biomedical applications. The developed teleoperation system reduces the barrier for untrained users to interact with miniature shape-morphing robots and deploy them in real-world applications. In particular, it encourages healthcare professionals to adopt these novel robotic systems into their workflow, by taking on much working load that was previously borne by users. The successful completion of this project facilitates the transition of small-scale robotics from laboratory toys towards genuine real-world applications to make far-reaching societal and economic impacts. The developed system is tested in gastroscopy and colonoscopy. It can be extended to work for other minimally invasive healthcare procedures with various miniature shape-morphing robots. 


Project number9048241
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/10/22 → …