The RAVEN-ITM was originally developed between 2002 and 2007 at the University of Washington with funding from the Department of Defense. While robotically assisted surgery was making commercial inroads, the systems were large and dominated an operating room. Existing systems did not fulfill the military’s vision of a surgical robot that could be deployed in the field.

Blake Hannaford and Jacob Rosen led a team that gathered an extensive database of position and force data from laparoscopic surgeries. The RAVEN design was optimized to deliver the required forces and range of motion from a compact package with state-of-the-art motion control. RAVEN’s size and geometry provide both portability and room for operating room personnel to access the patient.

RAVEN’s portability and durability have been repeatedly demonstrated in extreme environments. In 2006, RAVEN was used for simulated telerobotic surgery in a tent in a remote site, north of Simi Valley, California, performing tasks including cutting, dissecting, and suturing. A gasoline-fueled generator provided power and the robot was teleoperated by a surgeon in a different location over a wireless Internet link.

As part of NASA’s NEEMO program, RAVEN was transported to the Aquarius undersea research station in dive bags. NASA aquanauts re-assembled the robot in the station, at a depth of 19 meters off the coast of Key Largo. RAVEN was then teleoperated from Seattle and used to demonstrate surgical skills.

RAVEN has also been used to successfully perform minimally invasive surgery, a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) in an animal model.

It was recognized that RAVEN could used to accelerate a wide range of research in advanced surgical techniques. RAVEN provides a convenient test bed for researchers, allowing them to efficiently pursue their work without the need to design and build the core manipulator. A community of users would allow collaboration, sharing of results, and more rapid progress.

In 2010 to 2011, the University of Washington Biorobotics Lab and the University of California Santa Cruz Bionics lab, with funding from the National Science Foundation, collaborated on an update to the design and delivered RAVEN-IITM robots to seven research centers in the US. At these RAVEN sites, work is ongoing in haptics, computer vision, augmented reality, compensation for motion of surgical targets, cooperative telesurgery over the internet, human/machine interfaces, and autonomy.

In 2012, an additional four research sites purchased RAVENs, adding to the user community. Additional improvements were made to the design based on lessons learned from the deployment of RAVEN-II and this model was designated RAVEN-III.

In 2013, Applied Dexterity was formed to further support and expand the RAVEN research community. RAVEN-IIIs are available for sale and additional collaboration opportunities are possible.