OpenIGT Link connects KUKA Sunrise controller and 3D Slicer

Earlier this week, KUKA announced its support for the OpenIGT Link for the iwa arms. This is a fundamental benefit for the iwa research community. (Hope to see more use cases at ICRA!)

"The simple connection of the KUKA LBR iiwa lightweight robot to a system for image-based therapy. This is the result of a research project of KUKA Roboter GmbH in cooperation with the Institute for Mechatronic Systems of the Leibniz University in Hanover. Institutes and universities involved in research with the KUKA LBR iiwa lightweight robot can now obtain the interfaces identified in the course of the project as well as the source code for an exemplary medical application free of charge via the GitHub hosting service.  

 Research has been ongoing in the field of robot-assisted surgery since the mid-eighties. However, there have only been a few medical applications which have enjoyed commercial success so far. The complex and time-consuming surgery workflow as well as the insufficient accuracy of the entire operation are challenging components. The project was started in March 2012 with the objective of providing the scientific community with general interfaces to use the LBR iiwa in a medical environment.
Java and open source
In the last one and a half years Sebastian Tauscher, together with his team under the supervision of the head of the institute, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Tobias Ortmaier, has developed Java libraries on the basis of the Java-based KUKA Sunrise Robotics API, which can now be used for follow-up research projects. “What is special is that an open-source standard interface was selected as the interface. OpenIGT Link is an open protocol specialized in linking and integrating devices and systems in the field of surgery,” states Ortmaier, when explaining the features of the selected interface.
Linking the robotic and medical workflows
The research objective could be achieved by selecting the freely available widespread “3D Slicer” software for visualization and image processing. It is now possible to connect “3D Slicer” and the KUKA Sunrise controller via OpenIGT Link. This allows the medical workflow to be linked to the workflow of the robot. A freely available expansion of the 3D Slicer image-processing software “LightWeightRobotIGT” was created with the support of the Boston Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It can be used to command the lightweight robot or to operate a state machine on the robot controller as well as to visualize the current position of the robot in relation to the computer tomography or magnetic resonance tomography data. 
Application example from bone surgery
With the extension of the 3D Slicer software as well as the control expansion of KUKA Sunrise, the user can directly access the source code and, in this way, customize the supplied application example from orthopedic surgery as desired. Furthermore, these new software packages can be subjected to constant further development in full keeping with the concepts of open-source offers. “The simple interfacing and integration of the robotic system in an image-assisted therapy system is an important step on the way to a practical medical product. I am happy that I was able to make a contribution in this respect,” says Sebastian Tauscher, doctoral student at the Chair for Mechatronic Systems, with pride in his project."

Read more about the technology here.

Source: KUKA (hat tip: CvT)


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