This paper describes the testbed telesurgery system that was developed in MIT's Human Machine Systems Laboratory. This system was used to investigate the effects of communication time delays on controller stability and on the performance of surgical tasks.
The system includes a bilateral force-reflecting teleoperator system, interchangeable surgical tools, audio and video communication between the master and slave sites, and methods to generate time delays between the sites. To compensate for the time delays, various control schemes were investigated, leading to the development and selection of fuzzy sliding control (FSC). With a stable teleoperator system, experiments in performing a variety of surgical exercises were conducted. These looked at the performance of a team of a telesurgeon and local assistant given a number of different time-delay scenarios, including synchronous and asynchronous force and audio/video feedback.
The results of the research project include the development of the novel FSC algorithm, data on how time delays degrade performance of surgical tasks, and recommendations on how telesurgery should be performed to accommodate telecommunication time delays.