Robot-assisted surgery has been around for years, and the advantages are significant. While it was originally intended for remote use, such as in surgeries on the battlefield, it turned out that the lag time was too great. Surgeons using the tools have to be very close to the patient. However, surgeons who tried the tools found that they were much more comfortable and less physically taxing than unassisted surgery. Doctors were able to perform more surgeries, faster, without compromising on safety.
Now Google is getting involved in the next generation of surgical robotics, partnering with Johnson & Johnson to create surgical tools that are designed, Johnson & Johnsons says, to be the equivalent of a move from the desktop to the iPad when compared with current robotic surgery.
Johnson & Johnson has a robotics division and a long history in the medical field. What does Google bring to the table? Machine vision, sophisticated sensors, and a new dashboard that will let surgeons deal with all the information they need on one screen. Google’s imaging software can do things like highlighting blood vessels to make them more clearly visible to surgeons. Google’s incredible facility with data will change the way surgical robots use information, and help surgeons to make data-driven decisions on the fly.
Robot surgeons? Not even close. Robotic surgery is a matter of human surgeons using high tech tools. It’s not automated, and it doesn’t bypass human skill or decision making. It does let surgeons use smaller tools, for better recovery times and less likelihood of damage. It gives human surgeons a great degree of precision and, with Google’s help, more data and a clearer view.
It’s yet another example of how humans and robots can work together.