Gore Robots: From Blood and Guts to Bits and Bytes


Robots can already solve sophisticated problems ranging from playing games, autonomous driving, and dancing—given enough observational of data for training. The core of such success resides in efficient algorithms, compliant hardware and robust computing, all implemented using carefully curated data collected before the training phase. Thus, robots learn in a “sterile” domain, under clean, controlled and to some extent supervised environments. As the target domain changes, however, moving to more quotidian scenarios, robots struggle to perform well. It is hard to think of an autonomous car trained in Silicon Valley being able to successfully navigate the crowded streets of New Delhi. Ideally, we would like to see human and robot hybrid teams that can learn while immersed in a non-sterile setting, where one takes the lead where it excels and ask for help when in need. To address this hurdle, my work in the area of robotics and autonomous systems focuses on transferring skills and knowledge from controlled settings to the wild. In this talk, I emphasize strategies and techniques to address fundamental challenges in emergency medicine. Specifically, I will discuss work related to surgical assistants, telesurgery, and skill augmentation. While medicine is the main domain of the research discussed, the outcomes and findings are applicable to the range of field robotics. Progress in these directions will contribute to the public purpose of creating the knowledge for developing robots that are more accessible, effective and sensitive to social needs.


Dr. Juan Wachs is a Professor and University Faculty Scholar in the Industrial Engineering School at Purdue University, Professor of Biomedical Engineering (by courtesy), an Adjunct Associate Professor of Surgery at IU School of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He is currently serving at NSF as a Program Director for robotics and AI programs at CISE. He is also the director of the Intelligent Systems and Assistive Technologies (ISAT) Lab at Purdue, and he is affiliated with the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering. He completed postdoctoral training at the Naval Postgraduate School’s MOVES Institute under a National Research Council Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences. Dr. Wachs received his B.Ed.Tech in Electrical Education in ORT Academic College, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem campus. His M.Sc and Ph.D in Industrial Engineering and Management from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He is the recipient of the 2013 Air Force Young Investigator Award, and the 2015 Helmsley Senior Scientist Fellow, and 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar, the James A. and Sharon M. Tompkins Rising Star Associate Professor, 2017, and the ACM Distinguished Speaker 2018. Since 2020 he has been elected University Faculty Scholar. He is also the Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions in Human-Machine Systems, Frontiers in Robotics and AI.