Surgical robot built at UCSC featured in 'Ender's Game' movie

robotic surgery scene from movie

The character Bonzo Madrid undergoes robotic surgery in a scene from "Ender's Game." (Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment)

jacob rosen with surgical robot

Computer engineer Jacob Rosen with a robotic surgery system in his UCSC lab. (Photo courtesy of Silicon Valley Business Journal)

The Raven II surgical robot developed in Jacob Rosen's Bionics Lab at UC Santa Cruz makes a cameo appearance in the new movie "Ender's Game," which opens November 1 in theaters across the country.

"Ender's Game," starring Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield and directed by Gavin Hood, is based on the 1980s science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. In a scene around the movie's 58-minute mark, the Raven II is used to simulate brain surgery on one of the main characters, Bonzo Madrid, played by actor Moisés Arias. The scene, which deviates from the book's plot, includes most of the movie's main characters.

Rosen, a professor of computer engineering at UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering, helped develop the first Raven surgical robot and worked on the next-generation Raven II in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington. With funding from the National Science Foundation, a set of identical Raven II systems were designed and built at UC Santa Cruz, with electronics designed by the UW team. The robotic surgery systems are now being used at about a dozen research universities across the country.

The Raven II used in the movie was provided and operated by UW researchers. UW graduate student Hawkeye King, who operated the robot from off set during filming, told NBC News that "despite filming from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., it [got] less than 12 seconds on screen."

The Raven robots are not yet used in clinics for surgery, although that is the eventual goal. Researchers are mainly using them to design and test new hardware and software for telesurgery procedures. The robots are designed to have state-of-the-art motion control and to fit in a standard operating room.