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ArXiv Preprint

Autonomous suturing has been a long-sought-after goal for surgical robotics. Outside of staged environments, accurate localization of suture needles is a critical foundation for automating various suture needle manipulation tasks in the real world. When localizing a needle held by a gripper, previous work usually tracks them separately without considering their relationship. Because of the significant errors that can arise in the stereo-triangulation of objects and instruments, their reconstructions may often not be consistent. This can lead to unrealistic tool-needle grasp reconstructions that are infeasible. Instead, an obvious strategy to improve localization would be to leverage constraints that arise from contact, thereby constraining reconstructions of objects and instruments into a jointly feasible space. In this work, we consider feasible grasping constraints when tracking the 6D pose of an in-hand suture needle. We propose a reparameterization trick to define a new state space for describing a needle pose, where grasp constraints can be easily defined and satisfied. Our proposed state space and feasible grasping constraints are then incorporated into Bayesian filters for real-time needle localization. In the experiments, we show that our constrained methods outperform previous unconstrained/constrained tracking approaches and demonstrate the importance of incorporating feasible grasping constraints into automating suture needle manipulation tasks.

Zih-Yun Chiu, Florian Richter, Michael C. Yip