Toward Force Estimation in Robot-Assisted Surgery using Deep Learning with Vision and Robot State

4 Nov 2020  ·  Zonghe Chua, Anthony M. Jarc, Allison M. Okamura ·

Knowledge of interaction forces during teleoperated robot-assisted surgery could be used to enable force feedback to human operators and evaluate tissue handling skill. However, direct force sensing at the end-effector is challenging because it requires biocompatible, sterilizable, and cost-effective sensors. Vision-based deep learning using convolutional neural networks is a promising approach for providing useful force estimates, though questions remain about generalization to new scenarios and real-time inference. We present a force estimation neural network that uses RGB images and robot state as inputs. Using a self-collected dataset, we compared the network to variants that included only a single input type, and evaluated how they generalized to new viewpoints, workspace positions, materials, and tools. We found that vision-based networks were sensitive to shifts in viewpoints, while state-only networks were robust to changes in workspace. The network with both state and vision inputs had the highest accuracy for an unseen tool, and was moderately robust to changes in viewpoints. Through feature removal studies, we found that using only position features produced better accuracy than using only force features as input. The network with both state and vision inputs outperformed a physics-based baseline model in accuracy. It showed comparable accuracy but faster computation times than a baseline recurrent neural network, making it better suited for real-time applications.

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