A robotic arm that reacts directly to the voice commands of the surgeon and automatically steers in the required direction during minimally invasive procedures - what only existed as an idea in visionary minds a few years ago is now becoming a living reality in more and more hospitals. This new reality began with the presentation of the first voice-controlled robotic arms, including the SOLOASSIST II robotic arm from Regensburg-based AKTORmed GmbH in 2017.
The SOLOASSIST II facilitates surgical work with endoscopes enormously, as it can be guided flexibly/manually or fixed in a specific position as required. In the fixed position, it delivers a maximum of tremor-free, steady image and is thus clearly superior to the human hand. The fact is that the disadvantages of endoscopic camera guidance by hand have been exacerbated by the technological developments of recent years. The high-resolution cameras of our time now produce images in 4K or even BK quality and 3D. For many corresponding applications, however, we humans lack the steady hand and even the slightest trembling movements are amplified in the enlarged reproduction on high-resolution screens to such an extent that precise work is made even more difficult. Added to this are human communication problems, e.g. when it is not quite clear between a surgeon and his camera-guiding colleague how far or in which direction the camera should be moved. In some cases, a joystick- or voice-controlled robotic arm can completely eliminate the need for a second doctor to operate the endoscope. This is an advantage not to be underestimated in view of the chronic lack of doctors in many hospitals!
Robot arm voice control requires reliable, high-performance technology
The SOLOASSIST SIIVoice voice control system is based on the leading industry standard for speech recognition. Using an intuitive instruction set, it enables smooth and uncomplicated control over the operator's field of vision. In contrast to joystick control, speech recognition and the corresponding processing requires significantly more computing and storage power. The developers at AKTORmed have chosen a Kontron industrial computer motherboard for the development of their SOLOASSIST II. One of many reasons for their decision: Kontron's industrial boards are designed for long-term availability and thus qualify for long innovation cycles and years of procurement projects, as is common in the medical industry. Approvals for medical devices are also generally complex, lengthy and different in every country. By selecting a motherboard from Kontron, AKTORmed has already had access to many necessary certifications such as CE, confirmations and tests for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), confirmations for electrical safety and radio-specific requirements of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The used motherboard Mini-ITX Board E38 with Intel Atom® processor of the E3800 series has sufficient memory and numerous interfaces required in the industry. A bootable flash memory is available for the operating system, application data is stored via the SSD storage. The complete assembly of the boards is carried out by Kontron partner, Aaronn Electronic GmbH. The system is supplemented by a main memory, fan and SSD memory, and is delivered to AKTORmed ready for installation after a software image has been loaded and several functional tests have been run. The company Aaronn Electronic GmbH has been supporting Aktormed for many years and provides the necessary interface between manufacturer and customer.
Failover guarantees patient safety
The SOLOASSIST II is now already in use in numerous hospitals in Germany and in clinics around the world. The safety and reliability of the medical technology used is absolutely essential in everyday hospital life, because even one functionally impaired component can have fatal consequences for the patient.
The complete software for the voice control of the SOLOASSIST II runs absolutely smoothly under Windows 7 Embedded. After three years in clinical use, AKTORmed has not recorded a single failure of a Kontron motherboard and for additional safety, the robotic arm is protected against uncontrolled movements by algorithms. The risk of injury to the patient is thus reduced to an absolute minimum.
The additional integration of artificial intelligence could further increase safety for the patient, e.g. if the endoscope is able to find an organ on its own and position itself. It would also be conceivable that machine learning could be used to store certain surgical procedures and that the robotic arm would be able to reposition the endoscope completely independently for future operations. But whatever the future of medical technology will look like, AKTORmed and Kontron are at the forefront of it!
Further information about our E3800 motherboard series can be found here:
What innovative medical technology are you hoping for in the coming years?
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