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Canadian space robotics inspire surgical solutions on Earth


Uploaded on February 22, 2018


Canadian space robotics inspire surgical solutions on Earth

2018-02-22 - Far above the Earth, Canada’s space robotics helped assemble the International Space Station, an orbiting outpost that pushes the boundaries of science and human knowledge.

Canadian expertise in the design and development of robotic systems like Canadarm2 has found new applications inside the operating room.

In partnership with MDA, Synaptive Medical developed Drive, a robotic imaging system that increases surgical efficiency and shortens patient recovery time. (Credit: NASA)


Luca Parmitano: The International Space Station is probably the most fantastic vehicle ever built.

Kirk Shireman: It's a one of a kind laboratory orbiting about 250 miles above the earth.

Jeanette Epps: And we perform experiments on the International Space Station.

Paolo Nespoli: We can do science, we can do experiments, we can learn how to do things that are out of this world.

Sôichi Noguchi: And the results will help benefit the people on the ground.

Narrateur: So, not only that, but we're also seeing benefits from how we actually assembled the space station.

Ken Podwalski: The International Space Station, in its design, was essentially designed like a Lego toy.  Lots of big pieces that need to be put together.  Some of these pieces are going to be about the size of a city bus.

Tim Fielding: We needed a way of manipulating or moving these big pieces and very precisely putting them together.

Ken Podwalski: Canada worked with its contractor, which was MDA, and with that company came up with a design that was going to meet the needs of the International Space Station.

Tim Fielding: The solution to that was using a fairly large robotic arm, and that system ended up being Canadarm2.  It could move around the space station, grab payloads, move them to where they needed to be, so that the space station could be assembled.

Ken Podwalski: You couldn't have built a vehicle like the International Space Station without a robotic system like this.

Tim Fielding: And that was when we started talking to Synaptive Medical.

Josh Richmond: Knowing that MDA had done this before in space, we thought it would be very easy for them to bring that experience and that technology into the neurosurgical area and help us with our medical robotics. We worked with MDA to create "Drive". Drive is a robot, mounted onto a base that holds a surgical camera that can be automatically positioned to any surgical instrument that’s tracked by our system.

Dr. Gavin Britz: What this arm does is it follows you, and it tracks you, so it speeds up efficiency. 

Josh Richmond: Ultimately, using the drive system allows a surgeon to have shorter surgical times, which means shorter recovery times for the patients, and ultimately that's better for the hospital and the patients. 

Dr. Gavin Britz: But what the robot does for us, is it allows us to do it safer, you can do it better, with less harm to the patient.

Josh Richmond: The software that runs on the Drive system, is directly derived from the software that runs the Canadarm2 on the International Space Station.

Tim Fielding: Those robotics work with and alongside an astronaut to enhance what they do.  So that connection is a very direct and real one.

Tim Reedman: Right now, it's probably the most used system that we can say is derived from the things we did on the space station.  We're pretty proud of that.

Dr. Gavin Britz: And I've see the arm before.  We've seen it on the space station.  But I never put the two and two together that I'd have the same arm in the O.R. at some time, no.

Ken Podwalski: I think everybody has this dream of how robotics are going to become more and more a part of everyday life.  The things that we do with robotics on the space station is basically pushing those dreams forward.  And we evolve the system, we gain the knowledge, we gain the experience, the expertise...  So this is kind of the unexpected benefits that we get out of doing a program like the International Space Station. 


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