This Robot Might Be the Future of DIY Surgery

In the 2013 Matt Damon sci-fi movie Elysium, the rich live on a space station where every home is equipped with a medical device that can heal any ailment. No, we’re not there yet – not even remotely – but we are inching closer to in-home surgery.

Now the idea of having surgery in your home might seem like a throwback to the 19th century, but what about a machine that can perform simple low cost operations, like stitching up the wound?

Meet MakerBot: an open-source robot surgeon in a box that is designed to perform simple operations without a doctor on deck. He’s not cutting anybody open just yet; so don’t go trying to find one on Amazon.

The design is the concept of Dutch designer Frank Kolkman, who wanted to develop a robot that would have DIY surgical capabilities. Now, this robo-surgeon isn’t going to be performing anything like spline removal. The robot is meant to perform simple procedures like laparoscopic surgery, where small keyhole incisions are made to allow a surgeon to operate inside a part of a patient’s body after inflating it with CO2, reducing the risk of infection.

It might seem like something out of a movie, but Frank actually came up with the idea for his medical Makerbot from watching YouTube videos. It was watching uninsured people make their own DIY medical videos that spurred his inspiration to do something.

“America has the most advanced health care industry in the world, but there is this growing group of middle-class U.S. citizens who have no access to it, and YouTube is currently filling this gap,” he says. “Mainly uninsured Americans are sharing videos on how to perform hacks on yourself as an alternative to professional care.”

As fascinating – and maybe a little unsettling – as a surgical robot is, the reality of an in-home model is still unsure. Mostly because liability issues, you can’t just have a robot doctor in the living room cutting anybody open. Another issue of course is the patents. As Frank found out while developing his project, it was almost impossible to develop anything related to robotic surgery without infringing on a previous patent (robotics are already used by some doctors to aid in procedures and their mechanics are heavily patented).

As a result, no date is set yet for this in-home robo-doctor… but keep your calendars open.

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