Increasing the roles played by robots in society can conjure various visions of both utopias and dystopias, depending on your level of comfort with and trust in technology.
Case in point: A team of scientists based at the University of Leeds in the UK has developed a semi-autonomous robotic system to perform one of the most intimate and dreaded routine medical procedures around: the colonoscopy.
“What we have developed is a system that is easier for doctors or nurses to operate and is less painful for patients,” explains Pietro Valdastri, a professor of robotics and autonomous systems overseeing the research. “It marks an important step in the move to make colonoscopy much more widely
Scientists have made a breakthrough in their work to develop semi-autonomous colonoscopy, using a robot to guide a medical device into the body.
The milestone brings closer the prospect of an intelligent robotic system being able to guide instruments to precise locations in the body to take biopsies or allow internal tissues to be examined.
A doctor or nurse would still be on hand to make clinical decisions but the demanding task of manipulating the device is offloaded to a robotic system.
The latest findings — ‘Enabling the future of colonoscopy with intelligent and autonomous magnetic manipulation’ — is the culmination of 12 years of research by an international team of scientists led by the University of Leeds.
The research is published today (Monday, 12 October) in the scientific journal Nature Machine Intelligence.
Patient trials using the system could begin next year or in early 2022.