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Comfort and learnability assessment of a new soft robotic manipulator for minimally invasive surgery

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A Shafti, F Andorno, N Marchese, S Arolfo, A Aydin, O Elhage, Y Noh, H A Wurdemann, A Arezzo, P Dasgupta, K Althoefer

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Abstract

Laparoscopic surgeons perform precise and time consuming procedures while holding awkward poses in their upper body and arms. There is an ongoing effort to produce robotic tools for laparoscopic surgery that will simplify these tasks and reduce risk of errors to help both the surgeon and the patient. STIFF-FLOP is an ongoing EU FP7 project focusing on this by creating a stiffness controllable soft robotic manipulator. This paper reports on a study to test the soft manipulator's learnability and the effort associated with its use. The tests involved a limited prototype of the manipulator with a custom built test rig and EMG acquisition system. Task times and video recordings along with EMG waveforms from the forearm muscles of participants (n=25) were measured for objective assessment. A questionnaire was also provided to the participants for subjective assessment. The data shows that in average EMG levels were 25.9% less in RMS when using the STIFF-FLOP arm than when conventional laparoscopic tools were used. In terms of learnability, from the first to the second attempt on the STIFF-FLOP manipulator, elapsed time was reduced by an average of 32.1%. Further details and analysis of the EMG signals as well as time and questionnaire results is presented in the paper.

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