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Robots and artificial intelligence power increasing numbers of technologies (everything from autonomous vehicles and smart speakers) that function free from human control. However, there is at least one area of technology that still needs human interaction – surgical robotics.

While the technology shortens lengthy surgeries and helps to improve accuracy, it supports, rather than replaces, the expert doctors who perform the surgery. A Matching Grants Research Program project now seeks to further improve capabilities.

Zhihua Qu, Ph.D., professor and chair of the University of Central Florida Electrical and Engineering Department, partnered with AVRA Medical Robotics Inc. in Orlando to design a robot with a navigation system capable of performing soft tissue surgery. The technology can repair wounds, damaged skin and other surface tissue imperfections.

“Efficiency is a factor, but safety and accuracy are the most important. If a surgeon is operating on a patient and the patient moves, the surgeon will have a slower reaction time than the robot,” said Qu. “These machines can detect and anticipate motion. They can be in and out very quickly, whereas humans are limited. That’s what we are looking to improve.”

The navigation system is the heart and soul of the technology.

“This is a first step in a very complex project,” said Barry F. Cohen, AVRA Medical Robotics CEO. “AVRA would be the third medical robot company in the U.S. to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration to do soft tissue work. It’s very complicated and requires expert work from engineers.”

Funds from The Corridor have supported two full-time graduate students, concept development and prototype.

“At the university, we want students to explore new ideas and concepts, and The Corridor’s support helps us do that,” said Qu. “This program really helps support not only commercialization and [the] state economy, but also human development. We’re teaching students to create new knowledge. Not just to learn existing knowledge.”

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