An Asynchronous Simulation Framework for Multi-User Interactive Collaboration: Application to Robot-Assisted Surgery

Adnan Munawar, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Abstract

The field of surgery is continually evolving as there is always room for improvement in the post-operative health of the patient as well as the comfort of the Operating Room (OR) team. While the success of surgery is contingent upon the skills of the surgeon and the OR team, the use of specialized robots has shown to improve surgery-related outcomes in some cases. These outcomes are currently measured using a wide variety of metrics that include patient pain and recovery, surgeon’s comfort, duration of the operation and the cost of the procedure. There is a need for additional research to better understand the optimal criteria for benchmarking surgical performance. Presently, surgeons are trained to perform robot-assisted surgeries using interactive simulators. However, in the absence of well-defined performance standards, these simulators focus primarily on the simulation of the operative scene and not the complexities associated with multiple inputs to a real-world surgical procedure. Because interactive simulators are typically designed for specific robots that perform a small number of tasks controlled by a single user, they are inflexible in terms of their portability to different robots and the inclusion of multiple operators (e.g., nurses, medical assistants). Additionally, while most simulators provide high-quality visuals, simplification techniques are often employed to avoid stability issues for physics computation, contact dynamics and multi-manual interaction. This study addresses the limitations of existing simulators by outlining various specifications required to develop techniques that mimic real-world interactions and collaboration. Moreover, this study focuses on the inclusion of distributed control, shared task allocation and assistive feedback -- through machine learning, secondary and tertiary operators -- alongside the primary human operator.