We were always of the opinion that robot surgery
was edgy enough as it is, but you know how those science peoples always have to kick things up a notch. SRI International and the University of Cincinnati hitched a ride on NASA's DC-9 "vomit comet" to pit human surgeons against semi-autonomous robots in suturing and incision tasks on simulated tissue -- while experiencing periods of zero gravity and 1.8g acceleration. Surprisingly, the robots kept pace just fine until SRI's fancy compensation software was switched off, which we're guessing is exactly the point SRI was trying to prove. Right now SRI is building a robotic operating room for the battlefield called Trauma Pod
, which is mostly autonomous, and they're also working on a fully autonomous system for NASA that could treat an astronaut on Mars, where the 20 minute delay would make telesurgery not an option. Field testing for the trauma pod should begin in 2009.