Mechanical engineering and robotic surgery hasn’t yet reached the level where it can completely replace trained and skilled doctors, surgeons and surgical technologists, but it has gotten off to a good start. There are machines and devices that have been developed in both the public and private sectors that can not only complete complex procedures without a surgeon being physically present in the operating room, but they have also come very close to becoming completely autonomous. Some of are so impressive that they are starting to make some science fiction films look more like documentaries than action epics from the mind of some coked-up sci-fi writer.
The Da Vinci Surgical System
This system is one of the first fully robotic surgical systems to enter the medical profession and hospitals all around the world including Johns Hopkins where it is used for heart procedures and Stanford where doctors use it primarily for female infertility treatments and operations. It still requires the use of a human surgeon to operate the machine and make the proper incisions and sutures, but it does so in a minimally invasive way and can provide a deeper look into a patient.
The Probulator from “Futurama”
This extremely invasive (in every sense of the word) device is used by the state to do complete physicals on “de-frostees” before they enter the year 3000. The device may not serve the same purpose as it’s real word counterpart, but it’s remote control station and robotic arms that perform the function in place of a doctor seem eerily similar.
The Swimming Digestive Camera
Patients with intestinal problems have to endure a very invasive procedure in which a camera is fed through their intestinal tract and if they’re lucky, it’s STARTS through their mouth. Some medical researchers at the Osaka Medical College of Western Japan developed a tiny motorized camera can be controlled remotely as it swims through a patient’s intestines to give doctors a way of see a patient’s malady without surgery or invasive camera tubing.
The C.M.D.F. from “Fantastic Voyage”
This classic 1966 science-fiction epic takes place entirely inside a comatose human body as a crew of medical surgeons and surgical technologists attempt to save a human life by miniaturizing themselves and entering the patients through the bloodstream. Of course, medicine has yet to develop the kind of technology that can shrink anything down to microscopic size, especially since most of our current efforts are dedicated to making parts of the male and female anatomy bigger and more noticeable.
Robots, whether they are built in the real world or constructed just the benefit of literature or film, are always imagined and conceived for the benefit of mankind. This big, soft and cuddly creature built by Riken’s Bio Mimetic Control Research Center in Nagoya, Japan aims to serve the same function by not only helping to transport hospital patients comfortably and safely but it also does so by looking cute and familiar to make the patient feel more at ease in their time of suffering.
Adam from the original “Outer Limits” episode “I, Robot”
The robot in this story was also raised not only to use its superhuman strength to serve mankind, but also to learn how to become a member of it in order to fulfill its creator’s ultimate goal. Unfortunately, the creator suffers a fatal accident in the doctor’s lab and the robot is accused of murdering him and as it is set off to its final execution, it saves the life of a small girl and destroys itself in the process. Hell, most humans couldn’t be programmed to do that.
It often seems that the ultimate goal of medical robotics is to completely replace the human element from the most highly trained physician down to the orderly who cleans up after the patient. The “Robosurgeon” could be the first step to that unthinkable goal. A working model of the robot operated on a 34-year-old man suffering from atrial fibrillation in Milan, Italy without any control or instruction from a medical doctor as physicians from around the world monitored its progress through a private video feed.
2-1B from “The Empire Strikes Back”
This robot from the final scene of the fifth chronological film in the “Star Wars” series is not only a very knowledgeable doctor and surgeon, but he actually has a very friendly bedside manner with his patients and a deep dedication to his profession. According to his “Star Wars Wookiepedia” page, it’s this very dedication and his alliance with the Rebellion that convinced Luke to insist that he work on his injured arm after his infamous first battle with Darth Vader.