The technology behind surgical robotics has been progressing rapidly, offering high precision with 3D visualization and a host of other features that were only science fiction not too many years ago. One still desired feature that has puzzled engineers is how to integrate haptics, or force feedback, into a surgical platform. One fundamental constraint that presents itself is the danger of installing vibrators or motors on the very same controllers that are used by the surgeon to manipulate the robot. You don’t want to create a logical loop in the mechanism while simultaneously reducing the dexterity of the surgeon.
To overcome this problem, Cambridge Research & Development created a device that essentially transfers the feedback to another part of the surgeon’s body, so that when grippers are used, for example, the force that they feel from the tissue they’re squeezing is felt by the surgeon on the back of the head. The Neo device is a linear actuator that moves a rod in and out of itself and applies pressure proportionally to that felt by a surgical too.
Here’s a demo video of the Neo device in action:
(hat tip: SurgRob)