Surgical and medical robotics

Research highlights

We have a number of research highlights:

Capsule robot technologies

One of the main research streams at the STORM Lab focuses on applying capsule robot technologies to urgent clinical needs, such as widening gastrointestinal cancer screening. Supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, we are developing a robotic platform for colonoscopy based on magnetic guidance of a soft-tethered endoscopic capsule.

This solution is designed to provide an alternative to colonoscopy that is completely pain-free for the patient. If successful, this could have a transformative impact on medicine as it may encourage many people to have recommended screening procedures, which many million adults currently forego due to the pain and indignity of traditional colonoscopy.

Gastric cancer screening

We are developing an ultra-low-cost technology for gastric cancer screening in rural areas of the Central America Four region (CA-4: Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador), where this disease has a very high incidence. Typically, screening for gastric cancer uses a flexible endoscope, which is appropriate in high resource medical settings.

However, many issues hinder its usage in low-income countries: high capital cost, limited portability, vulnerable electronics, and reprocessing concerns.

At the STORM Lab, we are developing a novel disposable, soft-tethered, swallowable, endoscopic capsule that would enable gastric cancer screening for just £2 per procedure.

Accelerating the development of lifesaving capsule robots

At a more fundamental level, we are characterizing the basic principles at the intersection of mechatronics, computer aided design, and robotic intelligence, which may accelerate the development of lifesaving capsule robots.

In particular, we are abstracting capsule robot design rules, defining a component-based language, and implementing a modular design environment that will enable rapid prototyping of complete capsule robotic systems.

This has the potential to open the field to a wider community and, at the same time, create better designs through advanced tool support. With this endeavor, our team is seeking to achieve a paradigm shift in capsule robot design and development, drawing inspiration from the recent progresses in the field of aerial robotics that have been enabled by a common architectural abstraction and the availability of open source testbeds.

Long term, breakthroughs in capsule robotics could lead to personalized diagnosis and treatment, transformative patient trauma reduction, and treatment efficacy improvements.