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Dr. Danyal Fer and other researchers out of the University of California, Barkley have been working on implementing AI robotics into surgical operations.  The research began with remotely controlling robotic arms to perform surgical exercises mainly done by students, and as more and more exercises were completed the AI began to learn to process and can now function autonomously.

The use of AI in surgical operations has been a long-lasting desire for researchers as robots and AI can normally perform tasks with a higher success rate than their human counterparts.  If AI were able to complete operations, it would likely be done with more accuracy and result in fewer mistakes. Currently, the automated robot can complete training exercises with more dexterity, speed, and accuracy than humans, but it is not prepared to take on more complex operations.

Brining AI robotics into the operating room will not eliminate the need for human surgeons but it hopes to bring success rates up for simple surgeries and ease the workload of surgeons who need to remain focused on more complex surgeries.

The full use of automated surgical robots appears to still be in the distant future.  The AI used in these surgical robots learns from footage obtained while the robot is manually controlled by a human operator.  Hundreds of hours of footage are collected, the AI analyses it, and then attempts to imitate the task.  Unfortunately, these robots are unable to adapt to change and any extraneous variable, such as wear and tear on equipment, causes the AI to miss its mark by millimeters.  Opponents of the use of AI in surgical operations fear that there are too many extraneous variables for these robots to function on their own.  Ann Majewicz Fey, an associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin stated “What happens when the camera angle changes?  What happens when smoke gets in the way?”

Researchers are looking for ways that allow the AI to adapt to various unforeseeable obstacles but will not likely become a reality for quite some time.  For now, it seems that AI robotics will remain something to assist surgeons rather than replace them. 

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