Here’s a two-in-one “tutorial” for you today; how to fold a paper aeroplane, and how to execute a belated St. Patrick’s Day manicure. Just follow along and do as the da Vinci does—our adroit instructor is a surgical robot, with a hefty price tag of approximately 1.3 million dollars, plus several hundred thousand dollars in annual maintenance fees.
In truth, the da Vinci doesn’t have the brain power to dictate the folding of a simple origami plane, nor does it know how to paint orange and green stripes on fingernails—its actions are remotely controlled by Dr. James Porter, the medical director of robotic surgery at Swedish Medical centre. The robot is, however, capable of executing these human-directed actions with far more dexterity and precision than a surgeon’s mere mortal hand.
The surgical system works as follows: the robot is operated from a surgeon’s console, which sits in the same room as the patient. Four robotic arms—each respectively acting as scalpel scissors, an apparatus for cutting or coagulation, unipolar or dipolar electrocautery instruments and an endoscopic camera that allows full stereoscopic vision—are remotely controlled by the surgeon from the console. The surgeon maneuvers the four arms with foot pedals and hand controllers; these movements are then translated by the robotic system into precise micro-movements.
The da Vinci isn’t entirely new to the world—(in fact, it’s already shown us how to fold an origami crane). It was cleared in 2000 by the FDA for adult and pediatric use in various surgical procedures with the intent to reduce risks in complex surgery by offering a minimally invasive approach.