Surgeons have been able to move the camera on TransEnterix’s Senhance System via eye sensing. But the new Intelligent Surgical Unit would allow a surgeon, for example, to tag a specific instrument and instruct the system to have the camera follow the instrument wherever it goes, CEO Anthony Fernando recently explained to MassDevice.
“It’s a convenience, and also it’s a safety feature — because one of the big things in surgery is that you don’t want your instrument to leave the surgical view,” Fernando said.
Fernando described the camera feature as merely a first step toward what TransEnterix eventually wants to accomplish with augmented intelligence and machine vision: “The hardware is capable of a lot more. We intend to do a lot more leveraging of this hardware, get into surgical data analytics and a lot more digital technologies and interpretations of surgery as we go forward.”
The news, announced today by the company, comes as it seeks a better 2020 after a 2019 in which it only sold three of its Senhance Systems — which boast haptic feedback, surgeon camera control via eye sensing and improved ergonomics. On top of the push into augmented intelligence, TransEnterix has also been experimenting with robot leasing agreements to get Senhance into the hands of more surgeons; the company closed two leasing agreements near the end of last year.
The Intelligent Surgical Unit isn’t about replacing the surgeon; it’s about the system computer helping the surgeon to see or think better, said Mohan Nathan, VP of global clinical marketing. (Nathan spoke at DeviceTalks West in December 2019 in Silicon Valley. Check out DeviceTalks Minnesota this March.)
Eventually, the system could have an overwatch feature in which the system utilizes scene cognition and surgical image analytics to provide a surgeon suggestions based on accumulated knowledge and experience around Senhance.
“It’s time for computers to do a lot more than just hold an instrument in surgery,” Nathan said. “I think our hope is that people will start to say this scrappy little company that’s been around for a while and is still fighting— it’s having kind of a Phoenix-like rise with some really unique technology that is going to leapfrog some other people and surprise them, frankly,”
Dr. Amit Trivedi, chair of surgery at Hackensack Meridian Health Pascack Valley Medical Center, thinks augmented intelligence and machine vision capabilities in robotics could transform surgery in the future.
“Imagine if a computer could be the best assistant you’ve ever had in surgery by anticipating and moving a camera effortlessly to maximize control of the visual field,” Trivedi, who participated in studies related to the ISU’s 510(k) submission, said in a news release.