The National Science Foundation (NSF) has granted funding for a four-year UC Berkeley research project that hopes to bring robots into surgery rooms. Led by Ken Goldberg and Pieter Abbeel, the team will utilize Raven II — an open-source hardware platform funded by the NSF — to create machines that are able to perform complex actions that are meant to complement the work of surgeons. The robots will assist with tasks that may be better suited for a mechanical device, such as retraction or suturing, which may otherwise require one or more assistants. As explained by Phys.org, the robots will be able to function autonomously with the help of human training and supervision, as well as human-defined algorithms and data resources.

Goldberg, a professor in the departments of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research and Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, has extensive experience with the Raven platform, and has been working with doctors and UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins to use robots to assist with cancer surgery. Awarded with a $3.5 million grant, Golberg's latest endeavor is the first project to be funded as a result of the National Robotics Initiative, which intends to stimulate development of robots to work alongside humans with about $50 million available for project funding.