Innovation of the Week

This robot is really good at drilling tiny holes into human skulls

And that's a good thing!

Robot at work.

Surgeons have a new helper: a robot that's been "perfectly designed to drill tiny tunnels in your skull," said Rachel Feltman at Popular Science.

Each year, some 65,000 people with hearing difficulties receive cochlear implants, devices that transmit sound from an external microphone to the patient's auditory nerve. To install an implant, surgeons must drill "a 2.5-millimeter-wide tunnel through a chunk of skull surrounded by facial and taste nerves," a risky procedure that often results in patients losing some residual hearing.

To minimize accidental damage, researchers at Switzerland's University of Bern have developed a robotic surgical assistant that can drill with remarkable accuracy, straying as little as 0.4 mm off target during 99.7 percent of procedures.

Courtesy image.

The bot has assisted with four implant operations since last summer; with more fine-tuning, doctors say, it could potentially be used in brain surgery.

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