Australian robotics uses evolutionary principles to innovate knee surgery

Researchers at the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV) in Queensland are using concepts of evolution and survival of the fittest to tailor a snake-shaped surgical robot directly to a patient’s anatomy, investigator Jonathan Roberts told Xinhua on Monday.

The groundbreaking project is the brainchild of ACRV doctoral researcher Andrew Razjigaev, who designed the first SnakeBot surgical unit for knee arthroscopy and presented it last year. The SnakeBot prototype includes three robotic arms that provide dexterity and vision for surgeons to maneuver on the inside of a patient’s knee.

Now, Razjigaev and his team use “evolution-based” algorithms to optimize the device by running computer simulations to determine which tools are best for patients. The algorithm works by examining 3D images of a patient’s knee, taken using a CT scanner or MRI, and then trying different iterations of the tool through a process that Roberts describes as “survival of the fittest.”


“We took a rough guess at a tool that we thought might work, changed it a bit at the beginning, and then we ran simulations and looked at which tools worked best,” Roberts said.

“The algorithm then uses some kind of evolutionary concept to create the next generation – it kills the worst, keeps some of the best, it randomly mutates the design of some of the best and makes random tweaks all over the place -It incorporates some great kids, so it’s like creating and creating kids.” Operators can then create 3D-printed and disposable tools that can be remotely controlled and fit perfectly to each patient.

Although the technology is still in the early stages of development and has yet to be tried out in patients, the team is optimistic that their research could have a huge impact and potentially apply it to other types of surgery. “Because we now have 3D printing and we have a relatively inexpensive way of making custom tools, the idea of ​​using evolutionary algorithms to design these tools for a variety of different types of surgery now seems reasonable,” Roberts said. “

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