Technology from Canada's Most Famous Robot, Canadarm, to Help Doctors Care for Children

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Monday, March 9, 2015


Canadarm, the robot that established Canada's proud international reputation for robotics innovation, has inspired several generations of scientists and engineers to develop new technologies for industry, medicine, and other applications.

Today, Industry Minister James Moore visited The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto to witness first hand how Canada's investment in space science research and development will be used to help drive improvements to surgical care for children.

KidsArm, a descendant of Canadarm, is the first image-guided robotic surgical arm in the world, specifically designed for surgery for children. KidsArm is a medical tool that will enable surgeons to safely and rapidly perform minimally invasive surgical procedures on children. It is capable of working in small and delicate spaces and will offer enhanced dexterity and precision.

The KidsArm robotic arm system was developed using technology built for Dextre and Canadarm2. It is the result of collaboration between SickKids' Centre for Image Guided Innovation and Therapeutic Intervention (CIGITI) and private-sector partners including MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), the Canadian company that built these Canadian world-renowned space robots. Other partners include Philips and other companies.

In 2010, SickKids received $10 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to support the development of KidsArm, MR-guided interventions including Focused Ultrasound and Virtual and Physical Surgical Simulation. Over the past five years, the CIGITI team has been hard at work in the research lab, building on the original KidsArm design. They are currently developing next-generation KidsArm robot prototypes, which will be ready for clinical use within the next three to five years.

Minister Moore took this opportunity to congratulate Dr. James Drake, Director of CIGITI and Head of Neurosurgery at SickKids, and the CIGITI team on the KidsArm robotic surgical system.

Quick facts
- KidsArm is funded by the Government of Canada.
- The next-generation KidsArm robots are being developed for use in neurosurgery, craniofacial surgery, urological surgery, general surgery and fetal surgery.
-These surgical robots will be capable of working in small and delicate, difficult-to-reach spaces under supervised image guidance. These robots will enable surgeons to quickly navigate to a treatment region, avoid fragile structures such as blood vessels, and rapidly perform procedures such as cutting, applying suction, using a laser, and suturing vessels and tissues.
- The KidsArm project is an initiative of CIGITI, a research program that brings together surgeons, radiologists, software developers and engineers to develop innovative technologies in robotic and minimally-invasive surgery.
- The Government of Canada's support for the research and development behind KidsArm is aligned with Canada's Space Policy Framework's core principle of supporting excellence in key technological capabilities, in this case robotics.

"Canadians are incredibly proud of our achievements in space robotics such as Canadarm and Dextre. Soon, taxpayer-funded technology used in Canada's most famous robot will help improve health outcomes for children here in Canada and around the world. KidsArm demonstrates how innovation in space robotics can lead to innovation in health research. Canadian families will soon reap direct health benefits from Canada's proud history in space."

- Industry Minister James Moore

"Today, we are proud to introduce Industry Minister James Moore to the KidsArm project. The research we are doing in the CIGITI lab has progressed at an exciting rate, and through our prototype testing, we are getting closer to bringing this advanced technology to the forefront of surgical care for children."

- Dr. James Drake, Director of CIGITI and Head of Neurosurgery at SickKids

Additional links

- Biography: Dr. James Drake
- Web story by SickKids (2010)
- Web story by SickKids (2014)
- News release by FedDev (2010)
- Canadian Space Technology to Help Sick Children

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