Abstract: Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) is one of the main aims of modern medicine. It enables surgery to be performed with a lower number and severity of incisions. Medical robots have been developed worldwide to offer a robotic alternative to traditional medical procedures. New approaches aimed at a substantial decrease of visible scars have been explored, such as Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES). Simple surgical tasks such as the retraction of an organ can be a challenge when performed from narrow access ports. For this reason, there is a continuous need to develop new robotic tools for performing dedicated tasks. This article illustrates the design and testing of a new robotic tool for retraction tasks under vision assistance for NOTES. The retraction robots integrate brushless motors to enable additional degrees of freedom to that provided by magnetic anchoring, thus improving the dexterity of the overall platform. The retraction robot can be easily controlled to reach the target organ and apply a retraction force of up to 1.53 N. Additional degrees of freedom can be used for smooth manipulation and grasping of the organ.
Abstract: Holistic visual navigation methods are an emerging alternative to the ubiquitous feature-based methods. Holistic methods match entire images pixel-wise instead of extracting and comparing local feature descriptors. In this paper we investigate which pixel-wise distance measures are most suitable for the holistic min-warping method with respect to illumination invariance. Two novel approaches are presented: tunable distance measures—weighted combinations of illumination-invariant and illumination-sensitive terms—and two novel forms of “sequential” correlation which are only invariant against intensity shifts but not against multiplicative changes. Navigation experiments on indoor image databases collected at the same locations but under different conditions of illumination demonstrate that tunable distance measures perform optimally by mixing their two portions instead of using the illumination-invariant term alone. Sequential correlation performs best among all tested methods, and as well but much faster in an approximated form. Mixing with an additional illumination-sensitive term is not necessary for sequential correlation. We show that min-warping with approximated sequential correlation can successfully be applied to visual navigation of cleaning robots.
Abstract: This article offers a brief overview of most current and potential uses and applications of robotics in health/care and social care, whether commercially ready and available on the market or still at the various stages of research and prototyping. We provide carefully hand-picked examples and pointers to on-going research for each set of identified robotics applications and then discuss the main ingredients for the success of these applications, as well as the main issues surrounding their adoption for everyday use, including sustainability in non-technical environments, patient/user safety and acceptance, ethical considerations such as patient/user privacy, and cost effectiveness. We examine how robotics could (partially) fill in some of the identified gaps in current telehealthcare and home care/self-care provisions. The article concludes with a brief glimpse at a couple of emerging developments and promising applications in the field (soft robots and robots for disaster response) that are expected to play important roles in the future.
Abstract: The target of this research project was a feasibility study for the development of a robot for automatic or semi-automatic artichoke harvesting. During this project, different solutions for the mechanical parts of the machine, its control system and the harvesting tools were investigated. Moreover, in cooperation with the department DISPA of University of Catania, different field structures with different kinds of artichoke cultivars were studied and tested. The results of this research could improve artichoke production for preserves industries. As a first step, an investigation on existing machines has been done. From this research, it has been shown that very few machines exist for this purpose. Based also on previous experiences, some proposals for different robotic systems have been done, while the mobile platform itself was developed within another research project. At the current stage, several different configurations of machines and harvesting end-effectors have been designed and simulated using a 3D CAD environment interfaced with Matlab®. Moreover, as support for one of the proposed machines, an artificial vision algorithm has been developed in order to locate the artichokes on the plant, with respect to the robot, using images taken with a standard webcam.
Abstract: Testing agricultural operations and management practices associated with different machinery, systems and planning approaches can be both costly and time-consuming. Computer simulations of such systems are used for development and testing; however, to gain the experience of real-world performance, an intermediate step between simulation and full-scale testing should be included. In this paper, a potential common framework using the LEGO Mindstorms NXT micro-tractor platform is described in terms of its hardware and software components. The performance of the platform is demonstrated and tested in terms of its capability of supporting decision making on infield operation planning. The proposed system represents the basic measures for developing a complete test platform for field operations, where route plans, mission plans, multiple-machinery cooperation strategies and machinery coordination can be executed and tested in the laboratory.