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Using Simulators to Measure Communication Latency Effects in Robotic Telesurgery

originally published in Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference

Roger Smith, Sanket Chauhan

Abstract:   Robotic surgical technology was originally developed by the US Army and DARPA as a tool to enable telesurgery at a distance. The Intuitive da Vinci system now provides a robotic surgical tool in a traditional operating room. But research continues into the extension of this capability to patients that are remote from the surgeon’s location. In this paper we describe the interim results of experiments into the effects of communication latency in the safe execution of robotic tele surgeries. These experiments were carried out with the Mimic dV-Trainer, a simulator of the da Vinci robot, which was configured to insert defined levels of latency into the visual and command data streams between a surgeon and the operating field. Subjects were asked to perform four basic robotic surgical exercises. They were allowed to rehearse these in a zero latency environment and with a randomly assigned latency between 100ms and1,000ms. Then each subject performed each exercise for measurement and analysis in our research.

This experiment measured the degradation of human surgical performance across a range of latency conditions. This paper reports on the comparison of the level of experience of the surgeons with their performance in a latency-effected environment. The data collected thus far refutes our hypothesis that more experienced surgeons would be more successful at managing the effects of latency and would perform better than those with less experience. Subjects in our experiment show no correlation between experience and successful performance under latency. The ability to manage latency in tele-operations may be shared between remote surgery and the control of a remotely piloted UAV's and UGV's. The results of our experiments may suggest that experience as a traditional pilot does not  necessarily contribute to useful skills in flying UAV's or driving UGV's when latency is present.

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