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How robots could be your future surgeonsDoctors have been using robotics to assist with surgery for a couple of decades. But now, they're experimenting with teaching the robots to do more surgical tasks on their own. CNET's Kara Tsuboi reports on how surgeries in the future could be performed.
No scalpel and forceps needed in this operating room. Just four robotic arms to operate on a patient's heart, controlled by a surgeon ten feet away. By digitizing the surgeon's movements. For the first time in two hundred years surgeons had an, had a, a tool that actually made them a better surgeon. Doctor Douglas [UNKNOWN] the [UNKNOWN] surgeon at the University of California Davis medical center in Sacramento. He's been incorporating robotics into his procedures for nearly two decades, but is now training robots to do some of the work on their own. Along with researchers at UC Berkeley, doctor Boyd is training them to do things like remove shrapnel and cancerous tissue, put in stitches, or make basic cuts. It's simple work for a surgeon, but incredibly difficult for a robot because of the soft tissue involved. Robots are very, very accurate at doing things once they are told what to do. They stay on task, they don't get tired, the don't get distracted. To train the bots, Dr. Boyd performs a manuever many times in a lab. The motions are digitized and the average is used to program the robots. All of the data is stored in the cloud so as the robot perfects the action, it can be used to program other robots. By crowdsourcing, you have access to 15 or 20 experts now that can contribute to movements and can be analyzed in the cloud. But the robots do have some limitations. They are two or three times slower than a surgeon and can't make decisions on their own, which is why they won't be replacing doctors anytime soon. Human beings in general are really good at. Abilities such as dexterity, manipulation, perception. And robots are very very far away from getting to that stage. The UC Berkeley team led by professor Ken Goldberg, is hopeful that robot assisted surgery could one day connect patients and doctors, no matter the location. It opens up the door to be able to perform surgery at a distance. In days gone by, surgery was all about blood and guts. In the future, surgery will be about bits and bytes. And of course, bots. In San Francisco, I'm Kara Tsuboi, Cnet.com for CBS News.