Scientists want to define just how smart robot surgeons are

For roughly three decades, medical robots have assisted surgeons in the operating theater. They provide a steady hand and can make tiny incisions with pinpoint accuracy. But as robotics improve, a new question has emerged: How should autonomous robots be treated? The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves medical devices, while medical societies monitor doctors. A robot that can operate on its own falls somewhere in between. To help, Science Robotics has produced a scale for grading autonomy in robot-assisted surgery. If adopted, it could help regulators decide when and how machines should be treated like humans.

The system ranges from level zero to level five. The lowest one describes tele-operated robots that have no autonomous abilities. It then rises to level one, where a robot can provide some “mechanical guidance” while a human has “continuous control.” Level two describes a robot that can handle small tasks on its own, chosen and initiated by an operator. Level three allows the robot to create “strategies,” which a human has to approve first. Level four means the robot can execute decisions on its own, but with the supervision of a qualified doctor, while level five grants full autonomy.

Science Robotics doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. It says the overlap between the FDA and medical associations is “challenging” and will require an “orchestrated effort” from all parties. The research journal is also concerned about the effect autonomous robots will have on human surgical skills. If a machine becomes the dominant choice, it’s possible that more traditional techniques — those that involve a doctor’s own hands — will be lost, or at least downplayed in training courses. As with self-driving cars, there’s also an issue of trust. A machine might be more efficient, but what happens when it needs to make a tough, ethically murky call? Who is to blame if a patient or family member disagrees with the decision?

Via: Wired

Source: Science Robotics

Source: Engadget - Read the full article here

Author: Daily Tech Whip

This article is part of our 'News Tiles' service. The site is currently in Beta. When it is fully operational you will be able to search through and arrange the 'Tiles' to display a keyword, product or technology over your chosen time period. For example you would be able to display all of the leading tech articles on the new Kindle Fire, in one spot in real time. You will also have access to our own original reporting and analysis as well as a polished place to post your own thoughts & reviews here, amongst the Daily Tech Whip Community. Please let us know if you have any feedback via the contact form or via Twitter. Don't forget to come back next week and see our full site and claim your name and your own free tech blog.

Share This Post On