Currently, robot-assisted surgery today is dominated by the da Vinci Surgical System. The device is highly regarded, but is heavy (weighs half a ton) and expensive ($1.8m). Plus it uses proprietary software, which means that physicians and engineers not associated with da Vinci cannot alter its operating system.
Change is on the horizon, however.
“None of that is true of the Raven. Originally developed for the American army by Dr Hannaford and Jacob Rosen of the University of California, Santa Cruz, as a prototype for robotic surgery on the battlefield, it is compact, light and cheap (relatively speaking) at around $250,000. More importantly for academics, it is also the first surgical robot to use open-source software. Its Linux-based operating system lets anyone modify and improve the original code, creating a way for researchers to experiment and collaborate.”
The ability for researchers to collaborate to improve surgical technology likely will lead significant surgical innovations.