SANTA CRUZ -- A bionic robot built by UC Santa Cruz scientists joins Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield on the big screen for the release of the blockbuster film "Ender's Game."
With its pumping pistons and two steely probing arms, the robot -- dubbed Raven II -- looks like it was built for the futuristic dystopian film based on the 1980 Orson Scott Card novel.
The dream role, however, for this machine is in a doctor's surgical suite.
Designed by UCSC physicist Jacob Rosen and colleagues at the University of Washington, Raven II was designed to both simplify and reduce the invasiveness of prostate and other surgeries.
"Surgery is such a demanding task, both from a motor-control perspective and in the decision-making required, that it is very difficult for a single individual to conduct," Rosen said. "People are very good at decision-making, but they get tired easily by doing repetitive tasks. So one goal is to move people back to a decision-making role instead of doing the tedious processes that can potentially be automated."
Along with preventing fatigue, medical robots allow specialist surgeons to conduct complex operations from across the globe.
Raven II aims to join other surgery-assistive devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical use, but with a price of $250,000, it offers a less expensive alternative. Some current brands cost up to $2 million, a prohibitive price for many hospitals.
Last year, five prototypes of Raven II were shipped to some of the top medical universities in the countries, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins, to field-test the system.
A director for the film contacted Rosen's colleagues at the University of Washington for permission to use a prototype on the movie set. Look for Raven II about an hour into the movie where it is used to simulate brain surgery on one of the main characters, Bonzo Madrid, played by actor Moisés Arias.