Intuitive Surgical – Robots are Cool

by Chris Christensen Add comments
categories: Gadgets and Inventions, Medicine

Intuitive Surgical Robot

One thing that science fiction has taught us is that robots are cool… at least until they take over the world. But some robots are cooler than others.

I had the opportunity recently to visit Intuitive Surgical with my alumni group from RPI. Intuitive Surgical is located here in Silicon Valley. They make surgical robots. These are not self-guided robots but instead a 4 armed robot that let’s a trained surgeon do the kind of surgery that used to be done with laparoscopic instruments. Laparoscopic surgery is very useful but is a difficult skill to learn. As you move your hand to the right, the instrument moves to the left. Combine the non-intuitive movement with small spaces and small video cameras and you can see why it might take some practice before you would be ready for surgery.

Intuitive Surgical Robot

What the robots that Intuitive Surgical creates do is make the whole experience much more intuitive. How intuitive. I was amazed. They gave us basically no training and then let us sit down at very expensive robots and do remote surgery. OK, we weren’t able to get real volunteers for surgery so we were doing tasks like unwrapping a hershey’s kiss or a starburst candy. And we could! The surgical instruments seemed like a natural extension of our normal limbs and their motions an natural extension of our normal motions.

Intuitive Surgical Robot

Intuitive Surgical Robot

What kind of things can someone who is trained in the system accomplish. I loved this video on folding origami with the robot. Skip to the end to see the size of the crane that is being folded.

With a growing number of surgeons trained on the machines they are finding more and more uses including operations not previously possibly. Robots are cool.


I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

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