Six projects have been awarded funding to develop robots that can interact and work cooperatively with people and respond to changing environments in a variety of healthcare applications including drug development, the National Institutes of Health, collaborating with three other federal agencies, announced last week. The total amount for these projects over the next four years amounts to $4.4M, subject to the availability of funds.
The awardees for the National Robotics Initiative (NRI) will work on projects that would accelerate the development of the next generation of robotics, in what is called co-robotics. These projects include robots that help engineers better design prosthetic legs for amputees, miniature robot pills that help doctors diagnose and treat disease, and even microrobots that help researchers make artificial tissues.
"Robots that can adapt to new situations and support the work and activities that people do on a daily basis are not just the future of robotics, they are already here. This work could result in more successful surgeries, better and faster recovery for stroke patients, and improvements in drug development and testing," said Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD., NIH director. "Affordable, accessible robotic technology can facilitate wellness and personalized, home-based health care, especially for the growing elderly and disabled population."
Along with the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture, the NIH has chosen to fund six projects to help develop co-robotics that can assist researchers, patients, and clinicians.
Parallel, Independent Control of Microrobots for Microassembly of Tissues
A significant obstacle for the development of drug therapies is that cells used for drug testing are not fully representative of cell behavior inside a living person. This project plans to develop and use micron-size bubbles as a robotic system that will be used for the assembly of artificial tissues. The creation of artificial tissues can improve drug discovery and testing, leading to higher-quality medical care. Aaron Ohta, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Personal Pill-Sized Soft Medical Robots for the Gastrointestinal Tract
While pill-sized capsule endoscopes are increasingly used as wireless imaging devices for diagnosing diseases in the digestive tract, they are limited to sensing applications. This proposal aims to address these limitations by designing and manufacturing new pill-sized soft capsule robots that can be precisely controlled remotely to enable diagnostic and therapeutic functions in the digestive tract for clinical and potentially personal use. Metin Sitti, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
Advanced Biophotonics for Image-guided Robotic Surgery
The ability to completely remove a tumor through surgery remains one of the most important factors for survival in patients with cancer. However, tumor removal from the brain is exceptionally difficult because leaving residual tumor tissue leads to decreased survival and removing normal healthy brain tissue leads to life-long neurological deficits. The goal of this research is to develop a robot that assists in automatically and optically guiding minimally invasive surgery. Eric Seibel, University of Washington, Seattle
Other awards were for the control of powered segmented legs for humanoids and rehabilitation robotics, robotic below-knee prostheses, and brain machine interface (BMI) control of a therapeutic exoskeleton.
This research will be supported by the grants from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging (NIBIB), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2012
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH) www.nih.gov