A broad variety of magnetically actuated robotic devices are being developed for minimally invasive diagnosis and intervention in many regions of the human body including the eye, ear, abdomen, heart, brain and vasculature. Potential applications include targeted drug delivery, diagnostic imaging, insertion of implants, biopsy and tissue ablation. Prototype devices range in size from sub-millimeter to tens of centimeters and vary in concept from swimming or bacteria-propelled microrobots to catheters, capsule endoscopes, and robotic mechanisms. Even though the design and implementation of each system poses unique challenges, these devices are based on the same underlying physical principles. Little effort has been devoted, however, to exploring and exploiting these commonalities. This full-day workshop will bring together researchers from academic, industrial, and clinical environments, in order to identify unifying research questions and approaches in the design, implementation, and evaluation of magnetically actuated interventional devices.


Traditional robots rely on the stiffness of a mechanical arm to precisely control motion and to apply forces at their tips. As medical robots become smaller and venture deeper into the human body along its natural passageways, it becomes impractical to provide a stiff mechanical coupling to the outside world. This has led to the exploration of concepts for the wireless generation of forces to either augment or replace mechanically transmitted forces. In the last few years, the use of magnetically generated forces and torques has emerged as a promising technique that can provide both sufficient power and precise control.

Electromagnetic and permanent magnetic systems have demonstrated the capability to propel miniature devices, steer catheters, and navigate capsule endoscopes and helical swimmers within the human body. In addition, MRI scanners have been used to combine magnetic actuation and MR imaging to enable robot tracking and control for intravascular navigation and needle biopsy.

Developing any of these magnetic actuation systems and medical devices for clinical use poses a common set of problems, such as optimization of the operational workspace, generation of appropriate forces/torques, accurate device localization, and minimization of the magnetic actuation system footprint. Additionally, such interventional devices share common challenges with respect to clinical acceptance and commercial success.
To date, however, interested investigators have pursued solutions to these problems independently. The objective of this workshop is to bring researchers together to identify unifying themes and solution strategies for this class of medical robots, to build new partnerships between researchers, and to spark new ideas for moving the field forward.


• Capsule endoscopy
• Catheter steering
• Drug delivery
• MRI-based actuation and imaging
• Precise implant insertion
• Robot actuation in solid tissue
• Swimming microrobots and millirobots

Intended Audience

The primary audience of the workshop consists of researchers and their students from academia, industry and clinical practice who are currently investigating magnetically actuated medical devices. The secondary audience consists of those researchers who are interested in applying this class of robots to new medical applications, and those investigators with a broader interest in magnetic actuation and control.


Pierre E. Dupont
Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Bioengineering

Christos Bergeles
Research Fellow

Panagiotis Vartholomeos
Research Fellow

Department of Cardiovascular Surgery
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Childrens Hospital Boston
Harvard Medical School