The RAVEN on TV and in the news

Photo from the Heartbeat episode "The Land of Normal" (Credit: NBC / Universal Television)
Photo from the Heartbeat episode “The Land of Normal” (Credit: NBC / Universal Television)

The RAVEN and Surgical Cockpit were featured on NBC’s Heartbeat last week! With the hardware and expertise of Ji Ma from Jacob Rosen’s lab at UCLA and Andrew from Applied Dexterity, NBC was able use just a bit of TV magic to film a dramatic presentation of the potentials of teleoperation. The episode features the special purple RAVEN 4-armed system that were the original prototypes for the first run on RAVEN II. The RAVEN IV setup was designed to investigate collaborative surgery between two surgeons at remote sites. The Heartbeat writers found some other uses of the spare pair of arms. You can watch the episode here and read a great article about surgical robots from Seattle’s Geekwire.




Applied Dexterity goes to NASA

We’ve been working with NASA for a few years in an effort to send the RAVEN to the International Space Station. NASA approached us with the opportunity to replace manual rodent dissections by astronauts with ground-based teleoperation of a modified RAVEN system. After several feasibility studies, Applied Dexterity was asked to bring a RAVEN to Johnson Space center to demonstrate ground-based operator training and performance under realistic time delay of one second.

After setting up the robot, we got the chance to tour NASA’s robotics facilities and check out a lot of their new and old robots, vehicles, and assistive technologies (

The week consisted of training NASA personnel to use the robot and culminated in a timed demo of the proposed robotic procedures with time delay in front of astronauts and other high level NASA employees. You can read more about the project in KQED’s coverage and our earlier article in IEEE Pulse.

Andy and John hanging out with the collection of robots and vehicles at JSC’s robotics hanger.
Andy, John, and Dave with the NASA “meatball” in the same room that Apollo astronauts were placed for debrief after their missions.
Dave and John in front of the refurbished Saturn V rocket in Rocket Park.
IMG_2755 cropped
A NASA consultant trains to use the RAVEN with standard block transfers before attempting rodent dissections.

UW telerobotic security hacking

The past decade has seen an incredible increase in public interest in technological security, and now the RAVEN has been at the center of a discussion of security in surgical robotics. Researchers at the University of Washington BioRobotics Lab have released a paper detailing their results from a “hacking” experiment, showing that without proper network security a surgeon could have control taken or augmented. The research team, led by PhD candidates Tamara Bonaci and Jeffrey Herron and Professor Howard Chizeck, demonstrated several ways in which hijackers could potentially interfere or take control during safety-critical telerobotic operations.

Of note, however, is that this experiment has not uncovered any security flaws in robots used for human operations. Rather, the research was performed with the RAVEN robot, which is a perfect platform for uncovering theoretical safety concerns without putting any life at risk. The RAVEN’s open source code was not the focus of this study, but rather the communication system that it employs. The RAVEN’s open source code allows these researchers and others to freely discover and fix any flaws on their own and these fixes can be tested and approved before distributing to other robots.

For more information about the RAVEN or RAVEN research, please feel free to contact us at info (at) applieddexterity. The original paper and several articles can be found at these links:

original paper article

MIT Technology Review article

imedicalapps article

RAVEN’s Big Screen Debut

Ender's Game Cast and Crew

To the delight of all of Applied Dexterity, the RAVEN is making it’s Big Screen debut in the first film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Sci-Fi masterpiece Ender’s Game. The staff of the film got in touch with Blake Hannaford and the BioRobotics lab at the University of Washington in the spring of 2012  to invite the RAVEN to be used in one of the scenes.

RAVEN on set

Lab members and PhD students Hawkeye King and Lee White spent a week in New Orleans preparing the robot for the scene, which culminated in an all day shoot with most of the movie’s stars. You can catch their masterful teleoperation skills during a closeup on the RAVEN just under an hour into the movie.

We are huge fans of the story, and we’re proud of the great work done by all of the BioRobotics Lab in making this happen. It truly is a sign that the RAVEN is ready for the future. The film premiers today, November 1st.

IEEE Robots App


The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has recently released an updated version of their Robots app for iPad. Authors of their Robotics Blog worked with RAVEN community members to include the RAVEN II in its database. The app is designed to bring together 126 of the world’s most popular and advanced robots from across the world. We’re very proud to have been included with so many other great robots.


You can find more information about the app for iPad here. We’ve been told that an android version is in the works.

RAVEN Featured in The Economist

In January of 2012 the RAVEN community gained 5 more members, which triggered a lot of buzz about the RAVEN and open source surgical robots. University of Washington press was on hand at the open-house to document the event and the word spread quickly. The Economist featured the RAVEN in its March 2012 print edition and again in June when exploring open source medical devices.