- IBM Develops Analytics Technology For Telcos
- A USB Hard Drive That Asks For Your PIN Before Allowing Access
- An Information Security Health Check-up For IBM Clients
- Enterprise Applications And Mid-tier Caching
- India Needs More Homegrown PhDs In Computer Science
- IBM: An Education Tourism Programme For IT Professionals And Students
Page 3 of 6
A robot in every classroom. The use of robotics in education is something that is common in USA, UK and Japan. Gagan Goyal, co-founder and director, TRI (The Robotics Institute) Technologies, Mumbai, feels that educational robotics is slowly catching up in India too. "Educational Robotics means understanding the theoretical concepts of science and technology in a practical manner, using robotics as a tool/platform," he explains. "It is known that for engineering college students, robotics can help a lot in understanding the concepts practically, but robotics can be a powerful tool for understanding science, maths, teamwork, resource utilisation, etc for school students also," says Goyal.
He points out that the international robotics market is also changing. While earlier robotics used to be thought of in relation with industrial and military applications, today a lot of companies like PleoWorld and iRobot have also entered the edutainment space.
The da Vinci code is changing the way surgeries are done. Minimally-invasive surgery (MIS) is a concept that has been around for some time. In India today, MIS is known commonly as 'laparoscopic surgery', 'endoscopy' or 'keyhole surgery'. Here the surgeries are performed through small incisions, thereby enabling the patient to recuperate very fast, and reducing the possibility of infection.
But what happens today is that doctors see inside the holes using a camera, and use long laparoscopic surgical equipment to operate through the tiny incisions. Because of the length of the equipment, doctors have relatively less control, and tremors lead to problems. There is also the problem of vision, as it is difficult to position the cameras. The length of the equipment also makes it tough for doctors to judge the pressure with which the tool meets the patient's tissues. Robotics has proved to be the solution to these problems.
Only one robotic surgical system called 'da Vinci', manufactured by a US company called Intuitive Surgical Inc, is commercially available today. This system allows a doctor to manipulate the surgery using a computer system, and a robot performs the surgery. The robot is capable of proper wrist-like movement, thereby increasing the dexterity with which the doctor can perform the surgery, while also increasing control and eliminating tremors. Vision is also good, as the camera is controlled by the robot and can be manoeuvred by the doctor to improve the view. In USA, da Vinci is commonly used for operations involving prostate gland, the gall bladder, etc.
In May this year, a team of doctors in Ontario, Canada, performed a cardiac bypass surgery using da Vinci. The same team is also working on improving the 'haptics' or sense of touch of the robot, to help doctors feel the pressure with which the surgical tools work on the patient's body.
Last year, the New Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences also procured a da Vinci system for Rs 90 million, to help with prostate surgeries. From the price tag, it is obvious that it is far from becoming mainstream. But some experts feel that this is because da Vinci is a general-purpose machine. As requirements catch on, robots that are targeted at specific surgical requirements will be built, and this in turn will bring down the cost.
Caring for the unwell. One of the most famous success stories of robots in healthcare is Paro, the mental commitment robot built by the famous Japanese inventor Dr Takanori Shibata. Paro (http://paro.jp/english) looks like a cuddly baby harp seal. It is an autonomous robot that can detect sound, light, touch, etc. It is active during the day, feels sleepy at night, responds when stroked, understands when spoken to, blinks, moves, and expresses surprise, joy and anger.
This has a therapeutic effect on patients, especially those recovering from mental trauma. Paro helps in many ways: it soothes ruffled nerves, motivates ill people, urges them to touch it, thereby improving physiological movement of patients, and more importantly, it helps break the ice between caregivers and patients.
Helping the aged stay safe. A major concern faced by many families today is of being unable to look after the aged, when the younger generation is off at work, and good nurses are a rare and expensive breed. This problem may be solved in the future, thanks to robots that can take care of the aged. Imagine robots following old people around the house, being able to recognise when they fall and do something out of the ordinary, take orders from them, fetch them a cup of coffee, or hand them a paper towel when they finish eating. This is not science fiction any more; technologists around the world are working on this possibility, and a few prototypes have been demonstrated at conferences as well.