Paper on “THE” Project published on Physics of Life Reviews

An article summarising the results of the four years EU project “The Hand Embodied – THE “ has been published on the prestigious journal Physics of Life Reviews. Here the link to the article. As University of Siena, we have contributed to the modelling of hand synergies and we have studied a systematic way to transfer human hand skills onto robotic hands. These results can be found here.

Abstract of the paper
phyLif

The term ‘synergy’ – from the Greek synergia – means ‘working together’. The concept of multiple elements working together towards a common goal has been extensively used in neuroscience to develop theoretical frameworks, experimental approaches, and analytical techniques to understand neural control of movement, and for applications for neuro- rehabilitation. In the past decade, roboticists have successfully applied the framework of synergies to create novel design and control concepts for artificial hands, i.e., robotic hands and prostheses. At the same time, robotic research on the sensorimotor integration underlying the control and sensing of artificial hands has inspired new research approaches in neuroscience, and has provided useful instruments for novel experiments.

The ambitious goal of integrating expertise and research approaches in robotics and neuroscience to study the properties and applications of the concept of synergies is generating a number of multidisciplinary cooperative projects, among which the recently finished 4-year European project “The Hand Embodied” (THE). This paper reviews the main insights provided by this framework. Specifically, we provide an overview of neuroscientific bases of hand synergies and introduce how robotics has leveraged the insights from neuroscience for innovative design in hardware and controllers for biomedical engineering applications, including myoelectric hand prostheses, devices for haptics research, and wearable sensing of human hand kinematics. The review also emphasizes how this multidisciplinary collaboration has generated new ways to conceptualize a synergy-based approach for robotics, and provides guidelines and principles for analyzing human behavior and synthesizing artificial robotic systems based on a theory of synergies.

New paper published on Medical & Biological Engineering & Computing “Hand–tool–tissue interaction forces in neurosurgery for haptic rendering”

Haptics provides sensory stimuli that represent the interaction with a virtual or tele-manipulated object, and it is considered a valuable navigation and manipulation tool during tele-operated surgical procedures. Haptic feedback can be provided to the user via cutaneous information and kinesthetic feedback.

 

deviceSensory subtraction removes the kinesthetic component of the haptic feedback, having only the cutaneous component provided to the user. Such a technique guarantees a stable haptic feedback loop, while it keeps the transparency of the tele-operation system high, which means that the system faithfully replicates and render back the user’s directives.

 

figure1This work focuses on checking whether the interaction forces during a bench model neurosurgery operation can lie in the solely cutaneous perception of the human finger pads. If this assumption is found true, it would be possible to exploit sensory subtraction techniques for providing surgeons with feedback from neurosurgery. We measured the forces exerted to surgical tools by three neurosurgeons performing typical actions on a brain phantom, using contact force sensors, whilst the forces exerted by the tools to the phantom tissue were recorded using a load cell placed under the brain phantom box. The measured surgeon-tool contact forces were 0.01 – 3.49 N for the thumb and 0.01 – 6.6 N for index and middle finger, whereas the measured tool- tissue interaction forces were from six to eleven times smaller than the contact forces, i.e., 0.01 – 0.59 N.

 

Fingerprint_detail_on_male_finger_smallThe measurements for the contact forces fit the range of the cutaneous sensitivity for the human finger pad, thus, we can say that, in a tele-operated robotic neurosurgery scenario, it would possible to render forces at the fingertip level by conveying haptic cues solely through the cutaneous channel of the surgeon’s finger pads. This approach would allow high transparency and high stability of the haptic feedback loop in a tele-operation system.

 

PDF: http://sirslab.dii.unisi.it/papers/2015/Aggravi.MBEC.2015.Surgeons.pdf

M. Aggravi, E. De Momi, F. DiMeco, F. Cardinale, G. Casaceli, M. Riva, G. Ferrigno, D. Prattichizzo, D.
“Hand-Tool-Tissue Interaction Forces in Neurosurgery for Haptic Rendering.”
Medical & Biological Engineering and Computing, Springer, 2015.
DOI: 10.1007/s11517-015-1439-8

Silicon Valley 2016 – Intuitive Surgical Technology Research Grant Symposium

Silicon Valley 2016, Intuitive Surgical Technology Research Grant Symposium http://www.intuitivesurgical.com/

12507134_10208629291997965_7814823607378336411_nHave a look to the photo album of the event.
– The idea we had in our lab #sirslab about using the cutaneous-only (no kinesthetic) haptic feedback in robot-assisted surgery, like the da Vinci system, was a great idea and it got the prestigious Intuitive Surgical Research Grant in 2015 (the only Italians) with a collaborative project with University of Pennsylvania (K.J. Kuchenbecker). Claudio Pacchierotti and I have been in California to present the results of the research based on our idea. We gave talks to surgeons and engineers of Intuitive Surgical in Santa Clara in the Silicon Vally and it was amazing. A lot of great conversations, ideas, and comments. We are coming back to Italy with more energy :-).

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If you want to know more about the idea of cutaneous feedback in surgical robotics have a look to this paper

– L. Meli, C. Pacchierotti, D. Prattichizzo. Sensory subtraction in robot-assisted surgery: fingertip skin deformation feedback to ensure safety and improve transparency in bimanual haptic interaction. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 61(4):1318-1327, 2014

and to the paper where the idea has been implemented in the da Vinci System in

– C. Pacchierotti, D. Prattichizzo, K. J. Kuchenbecker. Cutaneous feedback of fingertip deformation and vibration for palpation in robotic surgery. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. In Press, 2015

_DP