Wincomm’s WPC-789 Navigates Robotic Brain Surgery

May 21, 2024

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Wincomm’s WPC-789 Navigates Robotic Brain Surgery

While sounding like something out of a science-fiction movie, surgical robots have actually been deployed for quite some time, even going back a few decades. By taking advantage of the extreme precision offered by today’s motors and related drive components, the robots have revolutionized surgery by enhancing accuracy, control, and minimally invasive techniques.

In many cases, surgical robots have transformed traditional surgery, offering benefits to both patients and surgeons by reducing invasiveness, improving precision, and expanding surgical capabilities.

Initially used in the late 1980s, robotic systems like the Da Vinci Surgical System allowed surgeons to perform complex procedures through smaller incisions. This minimally invasive approach reduced patient recovery times and minimized surgical risks. In some cases, the surgery can even be performed remotely, with the surgeon in one part of the world and the patient in another. While not that common, this phenomenon has occurred during times of combat, with doctors stateside and wounded soldiers/patients in a remote hospital.

Robotic-assisted surgeries are performed by surgeons who use console-based controls to manipulate robotic arms, equipped with surgical instruments and cameras. This setup provides enhanced visualization and greater dexterity, enabling complex surgeries in tight spaces. Common procedures include prostatectomies, hysterectomies, and cardiac surgeries.

The flexibility and precision of robotic systems have facilitated more accurate and consistent outcomes. Surgeons can operate with greater comfort, reducing fatigue, and maintaining steady control during lengthy procedures.

Like just about any technology, it comes with tradeoffs. In the case of the surgical robots, there are the costs involved. Such systems are expensive, particularly the high initial purchase prices, coupled with on-going maintenance, and extensive training that’s required. That learning curve can be steep, especially when dealing with users that may be proficient with a scalpel, but not so much with a mouse or other piece of computer equipment.

Because the surgical robot is essentially a very complex moving computer, it can be prone technical failures, software glitches, or mechanical issues, potentially leading to complications during surgery. At the same time, the robotic surgery usually doesn’t provide the surgeon with tactile feedback, which can be crucial in assessing tissue response and avoiding complications.

Robotic Brain Surgery

The current technology has advanced enough that specialized robots, such as those specific to brain surgery, are being deployed. Specifically, they are being used for stereotactic surgery, to guide instruments with pinpoint accuracy to specific brain locations. This is crucial for procedures like deep brain stimulation, biopsies, and electrode placement. The precision minimizes tissue damage and allows targeted treatment.

The surgical robots can enable smaller incisions, reducing trauma and recovery times for patients. This is particularly beneficial for accessing the deep brain regions with minimal impact on surrounding tissues.

Typically, the surgical robot is equipped with high-definition cameras and micro-instruments that allow surgeons to perform delicate procedures with enhanced visualization and control. This can be quite useful in tumor resection and aneurysm repair. In addition, the surgical robots can combine with imaging technologies like MRI and CT scans to create detailed brain maps. These maps guide the robot's movements, ensuring accurate placement of surgical tools and reducing the risk of errors.

AI-Infused Technology

The "AI-Infused Technology" part, please shorten it to one paragraph. You just need to address that this solution supports this AI-infused technology and what the benefit by using it. It helps doctors to shorten the preparation time and conduct more precise brain surgery.

With that advanced imaging capability also comes the potential to deploy some amount of AI that could provide enhanced precision, decision support, and real-time analytics. Use of AI allows doctors to shorten the patients’ preparation time and lets them conduct more precise brain procedures. It does this by automatically adjusting surgical instruments based on predefined parameters to help maintain consistent movements, reduce human error, and enhance surgical accuracy. At the same time, it can analyze patient data to predict potential complications or outcomes, guiding surgeons in making informed decisions during surgery, leading to more personalized and effective surgical strategies.

One of the key elements of a brain surgery robot is the embedded computer that drives all the robot’s movements, interfaces with the various components, and serves as the back end to the user interface.

Wincomm’s medical grade box PC, the WPC-789 series, is quite capable of handling those functions and has done so in existing surgical robots. The WPC-789 is driven by an Intel® 12th Gen Core i9/i7/i5 microprocessor, compute-intensive graphics and capture cards, and GPU functionality. That allows it to integrate more than ten 3D imaging sensors to build 3D brain models in real time and navigate the robotic detector that’s inserted into the patient. The WPC-789 also links to the captured image flow to smoothly integrate into the overall surgery. In addition, there’s lots of other I/O available, depending on the specific needs of the user or the application. In addition, the platform runs cool enough that no fans are needed, which is essential in an operating room where it needs to be quiet.

Driven by Intel® 12th Gen Core i9/i7/i5 processors + iGPU

A first reaction to this technology might be that it requires a high-end graphics card, such as one driven by an NVIDIA GPU. But that’s not the case. In fact, the Wincomm team has proven that they can get equal or better performance using the on-board Intel GPU.

Intel®’s 12th Gen Core processors employ a redefined hybrid multi-core architecture, which allows it to operate at a frame rate that’s more than ample for the application. It brings together two types of specialized cores to deliver state-of-the-art performance. That would be performance (P) cores and efficiency (E) cores. The P cores maximize single-threaded performance and responsiveness, while the E cores deliver scalable, multi-threaded performance and efficient offload of background tasks for modern multi-tasking. Intel’s Thread Director works seamlessly with the operation system (OS) to intelligently optimize performance, ensuring that the right task arrives at the right core at the right time.

In 3D brain-surgery applications, the Intel® 12th Gen Core processors help improve graphics performance with up to 16 lanes of PCIe 4.0 tied directly to the CPU. This level of performance is sufficient to provide a data bandwidth that’s fast enough for the medical imaging. In addition, Intel® 12th Gen Core processors’ DL Boost operates seamlessly with the company’s integrated iGPU, such as Iris Xe or UHD Graphics 770, to accelerate inferencing for AI-enabled medical applications. This combination proves that sufficient performance can be realized without an extra GPU card. And thanks to Intel’s long-life availability, medical-systems engineers can leverage the lengthy certification cycles that are common in medical-device development.

The Secret Ingredient: OpenVINO

Another tool that comes into play in this application OpenVINO, a toolkit designed for optimizing and deploying deep learning models on various hardware platforms. Developed by Intel, OpenVINO enables real-time edge computing, and facilitates improved surgical precision through computer vision and AI applications. These capabilities contribute to enhanced safety, accuracy, and efficiency in a host of applications, including robotic brain-surgery.

Specifically, OpenVINO can enhance:

  • Model optimization
  • Real-time data analysis
  • Surgical precision
  • Cross-platform deployment
  • Accelerated inferencing for deep-learning models

When looking at test results, employing the OpenVINO solution can increase modeling inference performance by over 200% in terms of frames/s. OpenVINO allows deep learning models to be optimized for faster inference on Intel hardware, a process that’s crucial in robotic brain surgery, where rapid response times and low-latency processing are required. It also allows the models to be run at the Edge, another necessity for real-time feedback.

OpenVINO's flexibility allows for it to be customized on specific hardware for specific needs and requirements. And it provides tools needed to accelerate inferencing. Note that OpenVINO is an open-source solution, further driving down the cost for the end system.

Note that such a platform, one performing robotic brain surgery, has been deployed using the Wincomm WPC-789 medical grade box PC. Developed by Brain Navi Biotechnology, located in Taiwan, the system has been used by multiple hospitals in Taiwan, U.S., and the Netherlands. In addition to robotic brain surgery, such an intelligent platform can be deployed in a host of surgical applications, thanks to the use of AI, precision motors, and various I/O.

Wincomm Technologies always goes the extra mile with partners and customers to enable its solutions, whether it’s for medical or other applications. In this case, they co-developed the brain-surgery robot using the company’s vast medical-PC knowledge and its rich history of real-time computing. Wincomm has a long-standing history in this space, oftentimes working directly with medical professionals with direct input from the doctors who are actually using the tools.

Contact the company for more information.