2018 RAVEN deliveries

RAVEN locations worldwide 6-2018
RAVEN locations worldwide June 2018

Applied Dexterity has just completed the second of its 2018 RAVEN deliveries and installations! In May of 2018, the first 3-arm system with joint encoders and endoscopic camera adapter was delivered to the Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Robotic Vision in Brisbane, Queensland. Some of the first projects planned for the new RAVEN include investigations into robot knee and eye surgeries.

In February of 2018, the first RAVEN system with joint encoders with installed at the University of Virginia’s Link lab, where former UIUC RAVEN user-turned-Assistant-Professor, Homa Alemzadeh is expanding her research into safety and reliability of medical robots. Several of her students are working on surgical automation and collaborating on the simulation research with UIUC.

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 (http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/er4/).

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

sophos.com article

MIT Technology Review article

imedicalapps article

Applied Dexterity at ICRA 2014 – Hong Kong

We’ve been very busy at Applied Dexterity in 2014, and we’ll have a lot of news to share with you shortly. To whet your news appetite: we’ll be at ICRA in Hong Kong for the first week of June! We’ll have the RAVEN with us and we’re doing our best to have some cool new toys at our booth, too.

The RAVEN community will be presenting two papers as well. The first is UC Berkeley’s paper Autonomous Multilateral Debridement with the Raven Surgical Robot by Ben Kehoe et al. Ben and his labmates used stereo vision to find and remove simulated dead tissue (debridement). This work presents the automation of a surgically relevant sub-task as a stepping stone towards supervisory control of surgical robots.

Our roboticist, Andrew Lewis, will also be presenting his work on Dynamic Gravity Compensation on the RAVEN. Using an accelerometer on the base of the robot, Andrew implemented a simple and effective method to calculate induced gravity torques on the RAVEN and serial robots in general. The addition of this sensor improves control in any base orientation and any gravitational state.

We can’t wait to meet up with the robotics community at large again. And feel free to follow us on Twitter to get the latest AD and RAVEN happenings.

Robotic Hand Developments at Harvard

Professor Robert Howe at Harvard University was recently featured on Engadget for his lab’s low-cost compliant hand. It utilizes only one motor with some clever mechanisms and takes advantage of inexpensive pressure sensors commonly used as barometers in smartphones. By vacuum forming a rubber skin to the sensors, they are able to get good sensitivity. The photographers made sure to interview Professor Howe with a familiar high-tech robot in the background as well.


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.

Autonomous Block Transfer


Ji Ma at the University of California Santa Cruz has successfully demonstrated an autonomous, vision-guided block transfer task using the RAVEN research robot. The FLS Block Transfer task is a standard test used to train and test surgeons. Now, it’s being used to train the RAVEN! Ji reports 100% success in block grasping and 94% success in placement. This is a huge step for the RAVEN community and comes hot on the heels of UC Berkeley’s successes with autonomous debridement.

Autonomous Debridement at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Autonomous Debridement Scenario
UC Berkeley Autonomous Debridement Scenario

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley have successfully demonstrated autonomous debridement capabilities with their RAVEN robot. This is the first example of a fully autonomous subtask implemented on the RAVEN. In a simplified scenario, the robot is able to detect the locations of dead tissue and remove it to a safe location.

Graduate students, under the supervision of Professors Ken Goldberg and Pieter Abbeel, were able to take advantage of the open source RAVEN architecture in order to integrate stereo camera hardware and  Model Predictive Control software. Together, these systems are used to enable a vision-guided, autonomous application for the the robot. One day, this contribution can be used to enable surgery in remote locations where a surgeon may only have limited control of the robot due to communication limitations. A paper detailing the methods has been submitted to the IEEE for publication in 2014. This work indicates a major contribution to the field of robotic surgery and machine learning from a RAVEN team.

The advancements from the Berkeley team are shared with the RAVEN community by providing other users with their code. Several teams are actively working on adapting this software for their own research goals.

Find more information at the team’s RAVEN site.