University of Tennessee College of Engineering: Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering Graduate Seminar

« Back to Events
This event has passed.
University of Tennessee College of Engineering: Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering Graduate Seminar
September 21, 2015 4:00 pm
September 21, 2015 5:00 pm
University of Tennessee College of Engineering: Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering Department
(865) 974-5115
September 30, 2015
Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building
Room 524

Tactile Feedback for Telerobotic Surgery

Dr Katherine Kuchenbecker
Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics and Computer and Information Science
University of Pennsylvania

Monday, September 21, 2015 at 4:00 PM
622  Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building

This lecture will be available as a webcast. View it here.


Although commercial telerobotic surgery systems such as the Intuitive da Vinci are approved for use on human patients, they provide the surgeon with very little touch feedback. Measuring and recreating tool-tissue interaction forces is technically challenging, especially while satisfying the safety and sterility requirements of surgery.

Kuchenbecker’s research group at Penn has invented and studied two methods for adding tactile feedback to such systems. The first approach enables the surgeon to feel high-frequency instrument vibrations, which indicate important transitions in manipulation contact state that are often difficult to discern visually. They mount three-axis high-bandwidth accelerometers to the robot arms under the sterile draping; their outputs drive one-axis voice-coil actuators positioned on the surgeon hand controllers.

Recordings of live surgeries support the clinical feasibility of this approach. Other studies have demonstrated that surgeons significantly prefer this additional vibration feedback and that it has the potential to improve patient safety.

Their second approach to providing tactile feedback in telerobotic surgery centers on palpation, where the surgeon examines soft tissue using his or her fingertips. Working with the University of Siena, they mounted a biomimetic fingertip tactile sensor (SynTouch BioTac) to the end of a da Vinci instrument and attached a custom cutaneous display to the corresponding da Vinci master controller.

Using data recorded when the BioTac was inside the cutaneous display, their control algorithm finds the closest fingertip deformation experienced during calibration and drives the cutaneous display to the corresponding actuator outputs. A human-subject experiment with this system demonstrated that fingertip deformation feedback significantly improved the operator’s ability to locate a rigid object embedded in soft simulated tissue.


Dr. Katherine Kuchenbecker is an associate professor in Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the GRASP Lab, has a secondary appointment in Computer & Information Science, and is in the graduate groups of Bioengineering and Electrical & Systems Engineering. Her research centers on the design and control of haptic interfaces for applications such as robot-assisted surgery, medical simulation, stroke rehabilitation, and personal computing, as well as touch perception for autonomous robots.

Kuchenbecker has won several awards for her research, including an NSF CAREER Award in 2009 and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Academic Early Career Award in 2012. She gave a TEDYouth talk on haptics in 2012, and she received a Penn Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2014. Before becoming a professor, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University, and she earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University in 2006.

iCal Import + Google Calendar

Contribute to a big idea. Give to UT.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Big Orange. Big Ideas.

Knoxville, Tennessee 37996 | 865-974-1000
The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System