"The da Vinci Research Kit (DVRK) is an “open-source mechatronics” system – consisting of electronics, firmware, and software that are used to control systems based on the first-generation da Vinci system. Research institutions can access the open-source software and electronics through GitHub. To date, researchers at 25 institutions –from Canada and Italy, to Hungary, Israel and Hong Kong – are using the dVRK.
What’s more, the dVRK is making retired and outdated da Vinci systems useful again.
“Until now, research into more sophisticated control strategies using the da Vinci system was hampered by a lack of a robust common platform, leaving [researchers] to choose between building an expensive, one-of-a-kind system, or using an overly simplistic platform that reduced research impact,” explained Peter Kazanzides from JHU LCSR.
Many institutions had obtained their da Vinci robots from manufacturer Intuitive Surgical, Inc., which retired its first-generation systems as they became outdated. The company donated the system’s mechanical components to research institutions interested in pursuing tele-robotic medical research. (Others got their retired systems from hospitals or online.)
However, an issue arose: universities had only received the mechanical parts, and not the electronics or software that made the systems work. This is where Hopkins came in.
When Hopkins acquired its da Vinci back in 2009, a team of researchers led by Kazanzides and Allison Okamura (now at Stanford University) decided to build electronics and write custom software for the system tailored to their research objectives. Colleagues at other institutions took notice.
In 2012, the Kazanzides team joined with Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Stanford, and University of British Columbia to better manage their da Vinci related work. The result, according to Kazanzides, is that many research universities around the world now have access to a robotic surgical system that would be extremely expensive to buy and to customize.
Researchers at the University of Washington developed a similar system, complete with mechanics, electronics, and software, called Raven. Raven is similar to the parts of the dVRK that operate on the patient, but does not include master controllers. Seattle-based company Applied Dexterity has sold about 18 of these systems to other research universities and institutions. Between those using the dVRK and those using Raven, there are about 40 institutions around the world using these systems for minimally invasive medical robotics applications, and that community continues to grow.
With the support of the $969,800 National Science Foundation grant, which is administered through the NSF’s National Robotics Initiative, the Kazanzides team plans to expand the consortium each year. (According to Kazanzides, at least eight more institutions have expressed interest in obtaining a dVRK.) The team also plans to improve the technical details of the da Vinci and is devising a way to consolidate and merge the technology in various surgical tele-robotic units, including the Raven and the dVRK."
Read more at Hopkins.
Source: LCSR, JHU