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Students Use Million Dollar Surgical Robot to Play Operation

| 24 Apr 2011 16:57

A high-tech surgical robot can be used to save lives, but it's also a great way to win at Operation.

The da Vinci Surgical System is a high-tech robot that costs around $2 million and is meant to treat conditions such as cancer and artery disease. A group of students from the Johns Hopkins University Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics figured: "Hey, why not use it to play Operation too?"

Operation is a board game where players have to successfully operate on a patient named Cavity Sam to win. Sam has various holes in his body that contain humorously named parts, such as Spare Ribs and Water On the Knee. Each hole is lined with metal, and the board is electrically charged. Touching the metal on the outside of each hole with the game's included tweezers makes a buzzer sound, causing the player to lose his/her turn. The goal is to remove each part without the buzzer going off.

Critics wonder if systems like the da Vinci are truly an improvement over a trained surgeon. After watching this video, is there any doubt? The da Vinci takes Cavity Sam's Wish Bone out with ease. I just wonder how well it would do with the Charley Horse.

However, before you go spending $2 million to beat your little brother in Operation, there could be some foul play afoot. NPR emailed Carol Reiley from the video about whether or not the buzzer would have sounded from use of the da Vinci. She wrote back: "Yes, we could've grounded the robot and completed the circuit to make the nose buzz. But since it was a 2 million dollar machine, we decided against it."

Phooey. Still, it doesn't look like the robot touches the sides, so I'll call this a win. Reiley added that the video's purpose was to show off the da Vinci's "dexterity and hand-tremor reduction." It's a bit like using C4 explosives to weed your garden, but how can you not approve of something so unnecessary.

Source: NPR

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