During the past decade robotic devices have moved out of research laboratories into clinical practice, Viterbi emeritus professor George Bekey recently told an attentive audience of biomed executives, and the prospects for further developments are excellent.
Bekey: eminent emeritus
Under the heading "robots in our bodies," Bekey showed examples of robotic devices that are implanted in the body or penetrate the body for surgical purposes, including three devices developed by USC colleagues:
Bekey also discussed the Da Vinci robotic surgical system and new swallowable sensors and robotic prosthetic and orthotic devices to either replace or assist with arm and leg function.
Bekey went on to discuss rehabilitation roborics, describing the use of robotic systems to assist in the recovery of arm and leg function following a stroke or spinal injury. "This area has become of increasing importance as we learn more about the plasticity of the brain, so that proper mobility training can effectively 'rewire' portions of the brain," Bekey told his audience.
Rehabilitation robots included developents in moblity, such as new models of capable of moving up and down staircases. Bekey said robots are also assisting in rehabilitaton as teachers, coaches and helpers, "socially assistive robots' such as those being developed by USC colleague Dr. Maja Mataric. "These robots interact with patients by voice and gesture, but have no physical contact with them," he said. "Rather, they offer advice and encouragement during training and rehabilitation."
Some barriers, legal, traditional, and technical stand in the way of increased use of robots, Bekey said - but at the Viterbi School, the technology is on its way.
Bekey, a national academy of engineering member, was the founder of the USC Viterbi School Department of Computer Science under Dean Zohrab Kaprielian. The speech was delivered June 7.