Team members posed with components of the Raven II surgical robotic systems developed in the Bionics Laboratory at the Baskin School of Engineering. From left to right: Zachary Wells (bioengineering undergraduate), Calvin Yoo (bioengineering undergraduate), laboratory director Jacob Rosen (associate professor of computer engineering), Ji Ma (postdoctoral researcher), Joshua Schloemer (economics undergraduate), Farhad Ighani (computer engineering undergraduate), and Kyle Fujisawa (computer engineering undergraduate). Photo: UC Santa Cruz
Robotics experts at the University
of California, Santa
Cruz and the University of Washington (UW) have completed a set of
seven advanced robotic surgery systems for use by major medical research
laboratories throughout the United
States. After a round of final tests, five
of the systems will be shipped to medical robotics researchers at Harvard University;
of Nebraska; University
of California, Berkeley;
and the University
of California, Los Anegles,
while the other two systems will remain at UC Santa Cruz and UW.
“We decided to follow an open-source model, because if
all of these labs have a common research platform for doing robotic surgery,
the whole field will be able to advance more quickly,” said Jacob Rosen,
associate professor of computer engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering
at UCSC and principal investigator on the project.
Rosen and Blake Hannaford, director of the UW Biorobotics
Laboratory, lead the research groups that developed the Raven II robotic
surgery system and its predecessor, Raven I. A grant from the National Science
Foundation funded their work to create seven identical Raven II systems.
Hannaford said the systems will be shipped out from UW by the end of January.
After they are delivered and installed, all seven systems will be networked
together over the Internet for collaborative experiments.
Robotic surgery has the potential to enable new surgical
procedures that are less invasive than existing techniques. For some
procedures, such as prostate surgery, the use of surgical robots is already
standard practice. In addition, telesurgery, in which the surgeon operates a
robotic system from a remote location, offers the potential to provide better
access to expert care in remote areas and the developing world. Having a
network of laboratories working on a common platform will make it easier for
researchers to share software, replicate experiments, and collaborate in other
Even though it meant giving competing laboratories the tools
that had taken them years to develop, Rosen and Hannaford decided to share the Raven
II because it seemed like the best way to move the field forward. “These
are the leading labs in the nation in the field of surgical robotics, and with
everyone working on the same platform we can more easily share new developments
and innovations,” Hannaford said.
According to Rosen, most research on surgical robotics in
has focused on developing new software for various commercially available
robotic systems. “Academic researchers have had limited access to these
proprietary systems. We are changing that by providing high-quality hardware
developed within academia. Each lab will start with an identical, fully operational
system, but they can change the hardware and software and share new developments
and algorithms, while retaining intellectual property rights for their own
innovations,” Rosen said.
The Raven II includes a surgical robot with two robotic
arms, a camera for viewing the operational field, and a surgeon-interface
system for remote operation of the robot. The system is powerful and precise
enough to support research on advanced robotic surgery techniques, including
In addition to Rosen and Hannaford, UCSC postdoctoral
researchers Daniel Glozman and Ji Ma, along with a group of dedicated
undergraduate students working in Rosen’s Bionics Laboratory, played a key role
in developing the Raven II. Rosen and Glozman have also developed a Raven IV
surgical robotics system, which includes four robotic arms and two cameras. The
system enables collaboration between two surgeons working from separate
locations and connected over the Internet.