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Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):S1-S2. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-5.
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This article is a summary of a paper named Next Wave of Technology produced by D. Tesar. The urgent need is to create a balance of all supporting technologies required in electro-mechanical systems, especially those of high economic magnitude. The desired tech base is described in terms of 10 major topics that have been summarized here to indicate its relevance to meeting the needs of mankind, to its potential to reinforce our national security, and to augment our consumer product competitive position. All future machine systems will increasingly be highly nonlinear, reconfigurable to meet changing needs, and architecturally a mixture of serial/parallel control structures. This means that the influence of any one-control input (an actuator) faces an ever changeable physical plant. This complexity can now be addressed by using very low-cost/distributed sensors providing operational data to a criteria-based decision structure with a full evaluation of the system in 5 to 10 milli-sec. A computational revolution for decision-making is now feasible because of accelerating computer technology. This revolution will be based on the geometry of the decision process.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):S3-S6. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-6.
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This article discusses various challenges and puts forth the concepts of intelligent surgical robots and complementary situational awareness (CSA) as a means for achieving new surgical systems with unprecedented capabilities in terms of safety, ease of operation, and exact execution of pre-operative surgical plans. Situational awareness is defined in accordance with by the three stages of sensory acquisition, sensory comprehension, and projection. A robotic system with CSA assists the user not only in manipulation, but also in forming the situational awareness regarding the task at hand by using perception resources beyond the capabilities of the user. In the future, it is expected that CSA systems will increasingly be embedded within a larger framework of Computer-Integrated Interventional Medicine, in which patient-specific information such as images, lab results, and genomics are combined with general knowledge to model and diagnose the patients’ condition and to develop an optimized treatment plan.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):S7-S10. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-7.
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This article focuses on human skill understanding in the context of surgical assessment and training which has enormous and immediate application potential to enhance healthcare delivery. Surgical procedural performance involves interplay of a highly dynamic system of inter-coupled perceptual, sensory, and cognitive components. Computer-Integrated Surgery systems are a quintessential part of modern surgical workflow owing to developments in miniaturization, sensors and computation. Robotic Minimally Invasive Surgery, and the engendered computer-integration, offers unique opportunities for quantitative computer-based surgical-performance evaluation. The skill evaluation metrics as discussed need a variety of sensory data that limits the application to very specific robotic devices. The ability to couple quantitative, validated and stable metrics for surgical performance would lead to improvements in assessment and subsequently, training methods. Cognitive assessment can now be extended to also include sensorimotor assessment, with capacity to monitor and track skill across time.

Topics: Surgery , Robotics
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):S11-S14. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-8.
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This article demonstrates on the use of closed-loop surgery methods in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a highly effective soft tissue imaging system, and the ability to utilize this procedure in-vivo coupled with precision computer controlled motion will prove to be an invaluable asset in the future development of minimally invasive surgery. Robotic assistance has been investigated for guiding instrument placement in MRI, beginning with neurosurgery and later percutaneous interventions with some examples shown in the paper. In order for a system to compatible with the MRI environment, it should: be safe in the MRI environment, preserve the image quality, and be able to operate unaffected by the scanner’s electric and magnetic fields. Closed loop control requires multiple levels of feedback. Optical encoders have proven to be successful for position sensing inside the scanner bore during imaging when coupled with differential line drivers, filtering appropriate electrical lines, and thoroughly shielding cables to minimize electromagnetic interference (EMI).

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):S15-S18. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-9.
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The article focuses on developing an algorithm for automation based on stereo computer vision and dynamic registration in a surgical robotic context. The performance of the algorithm was further tested experimentally utilizing the block transfer task which corresponds to tissue manipulation as designed by Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS). The surgical robotics field as a whole progresses towards the reduction of invasiveness limiting the trauma at the periphery of the surgical site and increase of semi-autonomous operation while positioning the surgeon as a decision maker rather than as an operator. The autonomous FLS task is implemented successfully and tested experimentally with the Raven II surgical robot system. The data indicate that the autonomous operational mode has better overall performance and limited tool-environment interaction compared with the human teleoperation mode. Surgeon’s intention may also be extracted from a database that may lead to seamless switching between the human operator and the autonomous system and in that sense, it may allow the autonomous algorithm to cope with more complex surgical environments.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):S19-S22. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-10.
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This article reviews on modular interoperability of the software that is used for these types of systems. One key point is that while hierarchical multi-rate control may be suitable for the master and slave robots, there is also a requirement to handle the video and ultrasound images. This article presented an overview of surgical robot systems, with the recognition that these systems are not just robots, but integrated systems that include robots, databases, and real-time sensors such as video and other medical imaging devices. Common research platforms, such as the da Vinci Research Kit and Raven II, have recently become available. This has underscored the need for modular software interoperability, so that researchers can share software modules and more easily integrate other robots and devices. Standardization and interoperability are most applicable at the higher software layers, and can benefit from the availability of widely-adopted middleware such as ROS. Other interface protocols, such as OpenIGTLink, can be useful due to their wide support within the medical imaging and image-guided intervention domains.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):30-35. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-1.
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This article focuses on the transformation and dimming lines between digital and physical worlds.

Industrial Internet tools and applications also help people collaborate in a faster and smarter way – making jobs not just more efficient but more rewarding. Technological progress and economic growth are contributing to a seismic shift in the role that human beings play in the production process. Technological progress, notably in high-performance computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence, is extending the range of tasks that machines can perform better than humans can. The Future of Work is being shaped by a profound transformation, driven by the meshing of the digital and the physical worlds, the emergence of new design and production techniques, and a seismic shift in the role that human beings play in the production process. Technological progress is expected to push a growing share of the workforce toward creativity and entrepreneurship, where humans have a clear comparative advantage over machines.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):36-41. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-2.
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The article presents an overview of how connected or smart systems can help improve day-to-day lives and be beneficial for businesses as well. Connectivity opens a world of possibilities for improving occupant experience, reducing energy costs, and managing building equipment—three areas that can increase returns on real estate assets. Smart systems are expected to improve the efficiency of heat, light, sanitation, security, safety, and a host of services. The savings of energy alone could be significant. Connections between things and people, supported by networked processes, will enable everyone to turn vast amounts of heterogeneous data into practical information that can be used to do things that weren’t possible before, or to do familiar tasks better. Cognitive work and service assistants with deep learning and reasoning capabilities will support various human activities. The unprecedented communication can inspire creative thinking and collaborations among businesses and organizations.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):42-45. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-3.
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This article discusses the revolution that smartphones, apps, and add-on devices have brought in every person’s life. Sensors and apps are turning smartphones into engineering measurement tools. Increasingly, engineers are reaching for their smartphones to test products and equipment. The latest generation of smartphones feature sensor suites and apps that have turned the smartphone into a pocket-size laboratory of engineering instruments. Smartphones and apps have matured far beyond the consumer market to become real engineering tools. In 2013 Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., added temperature and humidity sensors and pulled ahead of the market with the largest sensor suite. Many apps are available free to the user. The developers monetize their offerings by putting ads in the apps or by offering purchases to upgrade to a ‘pro’ version of the app with more functionality. The apps have also been used in industry to diagnose problems associated with vibration in mechanical systems, and by an electrical company that uses vibration to determine tension in cables. Smartphones, apps, and add-on devices are evolving rapidly, and a smart choice could make your next engineering project go mobile.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):46-47. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-4.
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This article presents view of two books on massive open online courses (MOOCs). The two books ride on a homologous theme: the revolutionary future of undergraduate education. A Whole New Engineer, by David E. Goldberg and Mark Somerville, describes the change in engineering education that is taking place at the newly minted Olin College of Engineering and the more established the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Another book, The End of College, Kevin Carey prognosticates the future of learning and the university of everywhere based upon emerging MOOCs. Rising tuition prices and a flagging global economy, combined with advances in information technology, are leading to a rapidly changing scene from traditional lecture-hall teaching to online education.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):76-77. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-11.
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This article focuses on the work done at GE from 1960s to the early 1980s. GE funded the project of developing a full pressure/full temperature model of the same size. Test facilities were also built and run to gather data on potential problems such as: long term effects of partial channel water cooling on erosion, corrosion, and deposition; water supply, distribution and collection in the outer casing; materials testing with contaminated fuels. The results of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) program were sufficiently encouraging that GE and EPRI decided to advocate a bigger project to the US Department of Energy to demonstrate the concept in utility size components. GE dropped work on water cooling in the early 1980s. Part of the reason was concern of instabilities in the boiling water.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2015;137(09):78-79. doi:10.1115/1.2015-Sep-12.
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This article presents thoughts and experiences of R. Tom Sawyer, founder of International Gas Turbine Institute’s (IGTI) Turbo Expo. Sawyer founded gas turbine technical institute, and set its course for its first four decades, during which time the gas turbine itself, became one of the world’s most useful energy converters. Sawyer joined the American Locomotive Company where he was involved with both diesel and gas turbine projects from 1930 to 1956. R. He served as first chairman of the ASME Gas Turbine Power Division or Gas Turbine Division (GTD). Sawyer was a key organizer, helping to make the exhibit a successful revenue-producing part of the conference. R. Tom Sawyer was involved with IGTI to the end of his life in 1986.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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