Project ERM

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  • Robotic assistant for laparoscopic surgery and telediagnosis. Development of the robot teleoperation system

    Financial Entity: Instituto de Salud Carlos III. Ministerio de Sanidad

    Reference: FIS-00/0050-02

    University: Universidad de Málaga

    Period: From 01/01/2000 to 31/12/2002

    Main Researcher: Víctor Fernando Muñoz Martínez



System Abilities


ConfigurabilityMechatronic Configuration1Start-up Configuration. The configuration files, or the mechatronic configuration can be altered by the user prior to each task in order to customise the robot system in advance of each cycle of operation.
InteractionHuman-Robot3Position selection. The system is able to execute pre-defined actions autonomously. The user selects the subsequent action at the completion of each action.
Human-Robot Feedback2Vision data feedback. The system feedbacks visual information about the state of the operating environment around the robot based on data captured locally at the robot. The user must interpret this visual imagery to assess the state of the robot or its environment.
Human-Robot Safety1Basic Safety. The robot operates with a basic level of safety appropriate to the task. Maintaining safe operation may depend on the operator being able to stop operation or continuously enable the operating cycle. The maintenance of this level of safety does not depend on software.
DependabilityDependability2Fails Safe. The robot design is such that there are fail safe mechanisms built into the system that will halt the operation of the robot and place it into a safe mode when failures are detected. This includes any failures caused by in-field updates. Dependability is reduced to the ability to fail safely in a proportion of failure modes. Fail safe dependability relies on being able to detect failure.
MotionUnconstrained4Position constrained path motion. The robot carries out predefined moves in sequence where each motion is controlled to ensure position and/or speed goals are satisfied within some error bound.
ManipulationHandling2Moving to orientation. The object can be placed at a predefined place with a fixed orientation.





The total aim of this project is developing a robotic assistant for laparoscopic surgery, which represents an effective help for the surgeon. Likewise, a series of additional features will be added in order to be remotely conducted by means of telepresence techniques. The research is not started from scratch, but from a fully operational prototype which is the result of previous researches.

The fundamental purposes of this specific subproject are to make the suitable changes to the original prototype in order to be used in human surgery. Among other aspects, this fact makes the final prototype to follow the required safety rules, and to have an adequate behaviour before unexpected internal or external errors of the robotic system.

The foreseeable results of this project are: a prototype of laparoscopic robotic assistant prepared to be used in human surgery, and results regarding the use of telepresence for the diagnosis based on laparoscopic techniques.



Proposed goals and achievements


1. Design and construction of an autonomous robotic arm for handling the laparoscopic camera

It starts from a robotic assistant prototype for laparoscopic surgery which is at present in operation for in-vitro interventions. Nevertheless, this system requires some changes to enable and improve its use in the operating room.


  • Original design of a new robotic assistant prototype. It has been studied, through the original robotic assistant, the required mobility and safety needs so that a robot arm provides evidence of its utility for assisting laparoscopic interventions. Special emphasis is placed on the kind of mechanical structure, the number of joints and the working area of the manipulator device. The conclusions of this study and the search of patents of assistant robots for the mentioned kind of interventions have produced as a result an unprecedented configuration of manipulator arm which has advantageous characteristics on its commercial competitors.
  • Construction o the new robotic assistant. It preserves, functionally, the features of the previous model. It is added a design thought to be adapted to the spatial conditions of the operating room. Likewise, its reduced consume allows it to autonomously work by means of some batteries located in its platform. Its mechanical structure is activated by a minimum number of motors minimizing its cost and complexity. Efforts have been made in order to simplify its management, running and maintenance.
  • Adaptation of the new assistant for human surgery. The current EU safety regulations for electro-medical machines have been studied, and the General Sub-Directorate for Electro-medical equipment of the Ministry of Health and Consumption has been contacted. It is established, as a result of this research, the electromagnetic compatibility and electric safety requirements that the prototype must follow. These requirements have been used to re-design the robot’s control electronics.

2. Remote control of the robotic assistant

As additional aspect, the robot is expected to be remote controlled. To achieve this, the surgeon’s orders need to be transmitted to the robotic assistant through a physical medium as a wire or optical fiber, or through radio. Similarly, the robotic assistant must send the motion images and results to the remote operation station where the surgeon is. Besides, a videoconference system will be added.


  • It has been reached a double goal: on one hand, the original prototype based on an industrial robot, on the other hand, the new developed prototype. In both cases, a remote surgeon can manage the robot and communicate with the surgeon present at the operating room.

3. Adding a second manipulator

With this aim it is expected to increase the telepresence features for telediagnosis. The coordinated use of the two manipulators, one to control the camera, and another to handle a tool, allows the surgeon to get the feel of being in the operating room.


  • Design and control of a master arm to manage a robotic arm in minimally invasive surgery. This master arm is described in one of the patents applied by this team of researchers. The function consists of remotely teleoperating a robot arm so that it follows the motion orders sent by the surgeon.
  • Integration of the new master arm with the industrial RX60 robot. The master arm has been used for the management of the robot used as first prototype of robotic assistant. This arm, apart from being managed under voice control, it can specifically emulate the surgeon’s hand movements for the management of a tool.
  • No emphasis is placed on the operation with two robotic coordinated arms. This aim is described in the already approved and provided research project following this work.



Main Results


ISA PrototypeERM Prototype




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