Steerable Digit with ‘Touch-Sense’ Feedback

Steerable Digit
The aim of this research is to develop steerable digits as tool points to aid palpation and navigation in lumen in minimal access surgery. Currently the research is leading to the construction and demonstration of mini-digits with tactile information feedback for clinical processes.

To navigate complex paths within soft tissue lumen requires an instrument that is steerable at the tip and sensitive to touch. Applications are endoscopic and laparoscopic tools; catheters; and implantable devices for therapy and diagnosis.

The investigation is based on the application of the distributive tactile sensing technique where a few sensing elements are embedded in the structure of the device. In this approach the structure of the mechanism becomes a transducer of high resolution, retrieving information on motion and able to discriminate the path followed, the nature of contact and tissue characteristics such as stiffness. The technique has advantages in robust construction and mechanical simplicity. Solutions have the potential to be disposable.