Intelligent Surgical Robots: from Manipulation Augmentation to Complementary Situational Awareness

Nabil Simaan
Vanderbilt University, USA
16:45~17:30,November 19th, 2015


Until now, surgical robots have been limited to augmenting surgeon dexterity, precision, and manipulation skill. With the emergence of new surgical paradigms such as natural orifice surgery and minimally invasive surgery in deep surgical sites, new challenges face surgeons. These new challenges stem from the limitations of surgeon’s sensing, perception and incomplete situational awareness. To overcome these challenges, a new class of intelligent surgical robots has been developed at the speaker’s lab. These robots range from continuum robots with force sensing and contact detection capabilities to elastomeric electrode arrays capable of traversing anatomical passageways in the inner ear. A new concept of complementary situational awareness is put forward and illustrated within the context of several surgical scenarios. This concept introduces surgical robots as tools that extend beyond augmenting manipulation skill by enabling augmentation in sensing and in assisting surgeons in completing surgical tasks despite incomplete perception and situational awareness of complex surgical scenes. The talk will describe new design,, modeling and control approaches for intelligent surgical robots including parallel and continuum architectures. Examples of recent surgical applications benefiting from the above mentioned concepts will be presented. These examples will include minimally invasive surgery of the airways, single port access surgery, transurethral bladder cancer resection, cochlear implant surgery and retinal micro-surgery.



Dr. Nabil Simaan received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, in 2002. His Masters and Ph.D. research focused on the design, synthesis, and singularity analysis of parallel robots for medical applications, stiffness synthesis and modulation for parallel robots with actuation and kinematic redundancies. His graduate advisor was Dr. Moshe Shoham. In 2003, he was a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center for Computer-Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology (ERC-CISST), where he focused on minimally invasive robotic assistance in confined spaces under the supervision of Dr. Russell H. Taylor. In 2005, he joined Columbia University, New York, NY, as an Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering and the Director of the Advanced Robotics and Mechanisms Applications (ARMA) Laboratory. In 2009 he received the NSF Career award for young investigators to design new algorithms and robots for safe interaction with the anatomy. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2010 and he subsequently joined Vanderbilt University. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE. He serves as an Editor for IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Robotics (TRO), Editorial board member of Robotica, Area Chair for Robotics Science and Systems (2014, 2015) and Corresponding Co-Chair for the IEEE Technical Committee on Surgical Robotics.


Professional Activities :

  • 2011.10-present Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology (secondary appointment), Vanderbilt University
  • 2010.8-present Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering (primary appointment), Vanderbilt University
  • 2010.8-present Lab Director, Advanced Robotics & Mechanism Applications (ARMA), Vanderbilt University
  • 2010.7-present Associate Research Scientist, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University
  • 2005.1-present Lab Director, Advanced Robotics & Mechanism Applications (ARMA), Columbia University
  • 2003-2005 Post Doctoral Research Scientist, NSF Engineering Research Center for Computer Integrated Surgical Systems and Technology (ERC-CISST), Dept. of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University
  • 2002 Ph.D. 2002 Mechanical Engineering, Technion– Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
  • 1999 M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering, Technion– Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
  • 1994 B.Sc. (cum laude) Mechanical Engineering, Technion– Israel Institute of Technology, Israel.