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Human-robot collaboration (HRC) in medical applications

The “Haptic Ultrasound” application is the centerpiece of the KUKA booth at the Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery (CARS) research congress. Every year it brings renowned physicians and engineers together to discuss new trends and developments in the field of medical technology

June 17, 2016

The expert conference, with its accompanying exhibit, is being held from 21 to 25 June 2016 in Heidelberg. KUKA is presenting the “Haptic Ultrasound” application on site. The lightweight robot LBR also demonstrates the possibilities of human-robot collaboration (HRC) in medical applications.

The LBR has integrated, sensitive joint torque sensors in all seven axes. These endow the lightweight robot with contact detection capabilities and programmable compliance. As the first series-produced sensitive robot, it is suitable for human-robot collaboration and is opening up new areas that were previously closed to automation. “We want to show all that is possible with our robot technologies,” explains Axel Weber, Business Development Manager at KUKA Roboter GmbH.

KUKA shows robot-based ultrasound application 

“Haptic Ultrasound” is a robot-based ultrasound application for demonstration purposes. The robot arm of the LBR is equipped with an ultrasound sensor and executes exactly those motions specified by the user in a haptic input system. A special phantom can also be used as a model. The sensor then generates images in real time, which are delivered to the monitors through USB interfaces. The separation of controller and robot allows the patient and doctor to be in different places and enables reliable remote diagnosis during ultrasound examinations.

Congress participants can also experience HRC

The congress participants can also experience HRC technology for themselves. “We look forward to helping visitors interact with the robots. For starters, they will be able to control the motions of the robot. Beyond that, they will be able to directly experience the contact pressure on the phantom since the sensors of the robot return these impulses to the input system via a feedback loop,” explains Mr. Weber. The maximum pressure that the robot may apply is already programmed and predefined. This ensures that it cannot harm the human operator. The robot is controlled using open-source software, which, among other things, provides real-time data via the series of connectivity interfaces.