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Paging Raven II, the open-source surgery robot

Developed at UC Santa Cruz and the University of Washington, the Raven II is being tested as a lightweight surgery robot.

UC Santa Cruz

Any budding Dr. Frankensteins in the house? Here's a robot that's not only good for DIY surgery, it's open-source too.

The Raven II was developed at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of Washington and modeled on a system originally designed for military use. Five newly completed systems are being shipped to test centers throughout the U.S.

While the da Vinci Surgical System has been widely used for prostate and other surgeries because it's minimally invasive, the machine is very expensive and not portable. It also uses proprietary software.

The Raven II is more affordable at about $250,000 and its Linux-based operating system lets users modify code. Seven Raven IIs at centers including Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University will be linked together for collaborative experiments, according to UC Santa Cruz.

The system consists of two robot arms, a camera, and an interface for the surgeon. It can be used for online telesurgery.

Some of the more intriguing plans for the Raven II apparently include operating on a beating heart by moving in sync with its motion, and getting the robot to perform autonomously by imitating surgeons.

The FDA has not, however, approved Raven II for use on people yet.

Led by Jacob Rosen of UC Santa Cruz and Blake Hannaford at the University of Washington, the development of the Raven II, as well as robotic surgery itself, is expected to accelerate because of the open-source approach by the collaborating centers.

"Academic researchers have had limited access to these proprietary systems," Rosen was quoted as saying in a release. "We are changing that by providing high-quality hardware developed within academia.

"Each lab will start with an identical, fully operational system, but they can change the hardware and software and share new developments and algorithms, while retaining intellectual property rights for their own innovations."

Check out a video of the Raven II below.