Clinical Micro-CT Empowered by Interior Tomography, Robotic Scanning, and Deep Learning

While micro-CT systems are instrumental in preclinical research, clinical micro-CT imaging has long been desired with cochlear implantation as a primary application. The structural details of the cochlear implant and the temporal bone require a significantly higher image resolution than that (about 0.2 mm ) provided by current medical CT scanners. In this paper, we propose a clinical micro-CT (CMCT) system design integrating conventional spiral cone-beam CT, contemporary interior tomography, deep learning techniques, and the technologies of a micro-focus X-ray source, a photon-counting detector (PCD), and robotic arms for ultrahigh-resolution localized tomography of a freely-selected volume of interest (VOI) at a minimized radiation dose level. The whole system consists of a standard CT scanner for a clinical CT exam and VOI specification, and a robotic micro-CT scanner for a local scan of high spatial and spectral resolution at minimized radiation dose. The prior information from the global scan is also fully utilized for background compensation of the local scan data for accurate and stable VOI reconstruction. Our results and analysis show that the proposed hybrid reconstruction algorithm delivers accurate high-resolution local reconstruction, and is insensitive to the misalignment of the isocenter position, initial view angle and scale mismatch in the data/image registration. These findings demonstrate the feasibility of our system design. We envision that deep learning techniques can be leveraged for optimized imaging performance. With high-resolution imaging, high dose efficiency and low system cost synergistically, our proposed CMCT system has great promise in temporal bone imaging as well as various other clinical applications.

*The video published with this article received a promotional prize for the 2020 IEEE Access Best Multimedia Award (Part 2).

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Collision Avoidance in Pedestrian-Rich Environments With Deep Reinforcement Learning

Collision avoidance algorithms are essential for safe and efficient robot operation among pedestrians. This work proposes using deep reinforcement (RL) learning as a framework to model the complex interactions and cooperation with nearby, decision-making agents, such as pedestrians and other robots. Existing RL-based works assume homogeneity of agent properties, use specific motion models over short timescales, or lack a principled method to handle a large, possibly varying number of agents. Therefore, this work develops an algorithm that learns collision avoidance among a variety of heterogeneous, non-communicating, dynamic agents without assuming they follow any particular behavior rules. It extends our previous work by introducing a strategy using Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) that enables the algorithm to use observations of an arbitrary number of other agents, instead of a small, fixed number of neighbors. The proposed algorithm is shown to outperform a classical collision avoidance algorithm, another deep RL-based algorithm, and scales with the number of agents better (fewer collisions, shorter time to goal) than our previously published learning-based approach. Analysis of the LSTM provides insights into how observations of nearby agents affect the hidden state and quantifies the performance impact of various agent ordering heuristics. The learned policy generalizes to several applications beyond the training scenarios: formation control (arrangement into letters), demonstrations on a fleet of four multirotors and on a fully autonomous robotic vehicle capable of traveling at human walking speed among pedestrians.

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Robots Under COVID-19 Pandemic: A Comprehensive Survey

As a result of the difficulties brought by COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns, many individuals and companies have turned to robots in order to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. Compared with traditional human labor, robotic and autonomous systems have advantages such as an intrinsic immunity to the virus and an inability for human-robot-human spread of any disease-causing pathogens, though there are still many technical hurdles for the robotics industry to overcome. This survey comprehensively reviews over 200 reports covering robotic systems which have emerged or have been repurposed during the past several months, to provide insights to both academia and industry. In each chapter, we cover both the advantages and the challenges for each robot, finding that robotics systems are overall apt solutions for dealing with many of the problems brought on by COVID-19, including: diagnosis, screening, disinfection, surgery, telehealth, care, logistics, manufacturing and broader interpersonal problems unique to the lockdowns of the pandemic. By discussing the potential new robot capabilities and fields they applied to, we expect the robotics industry to take a leap forward due to this unexpected pandemic.

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