Robotics in clinical medicine:<br> A robot that performs endoscopic surgery

Robotics in clinical medicine:<br> A robot that performs endoscopic surgery

Kenji Kawashima
Professor of Biomechanics

Dr. Kawashima received his doctoral degree in Engineering from the Department of Control Engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1997. From 1997 to 2000, he worked as a research assistant at Tokyo Metropolitan College of Technology. He then worked as an associate professor in the Precision and Intelligence Laboratory at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Since April 2013, he has been a professor at the Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering at TMDU.

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Q: Please explain briefly about the EMARO surgical robot.

A: EMARO is an endoscope-holding robot that is driven by pneumatics. It controls the endoscope by sensing vertical and horizontal movements of the surgeon’s head, through a gyroscope that the surgeon wears on his forehead. The endoscope has freedom of movement in four directions: forward and backward (for insertion and removal), up and down, left and right, and rotation. The surgeon directs this motion by controlled movements of his head and by operating switches with his feet. The operation is activated only while the foot switch is pressed.

Pneumatic drivers make it possible for the robot to move gently and smoothly. Moreover, the pneumatic approach makes it possible to create a compact and lightweight design; sufficient power can be obtained by injecting or extracting air through a cylinder no larger than a standard syringe — about 10 mm in diameter.

The operating surgeon can receive clear endoscopic images without the shaking of the camera, resulting in more precise surgeries. Also, EMARO, taking the role of a scopist, can be useful in smaller hospitals that have fewer doctors, allowing more patients to undergo laparoscopic surgery.


Q: In which ways did TMDU’s unique resources contribute to EMARO development?

A: One strength of TMDU is that it has a technology institution within it -- the Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering, where I belong. EMARO has developed with the effective advice and major support of medical doctors in TMDU’s Research Center for Minimally Invasive Medicine and Dentistry. EMARO has been used in the Medical Hospital at TMDU.

Q: A venture firm has been formed to handle marketing of the robot. Why and how?

A: Tight cooperation between TMDU and Tokyo Tech (Tokyo Institute of Technology) generated the success of EMARO. As medical robots present a risk in terms of profitability for big companies, a venture company has emerged from both universities, supported by the government funding with the mission of developing the EMARO system.

Q: What is the outlook for your robot development project?

A: EMARO is the first in a series of surgical assist robots that will use ultra-precision pneumatic manipulation technology. Development is now underway for a surgical robot system that uses the pneumatic drive design and incorporates forceps.