Da Vinci Xi

Enhanced point of interaction for robotic surgery

Da Vinci Xi is a surgical robot developed by Intuitive Surgical, a global pioneer in robotic platforms for minimally invasive surgery. It enables surgeons to perform complex procedures by utilizing robotic instruments as natural extensions of their hands and eyes.

During the summer of 2016, I was an product design intern at the UX team of Intuitive Surgical. Through observations and interviews with surgical teams and clinical engineers, I identified challenge of effective interaction with Xi robot in the OR (operating room), especially for clinical staffs other than the surgeon, e.g. circulating nurses, scrub technicians and anesthetists. My design focused on those patient side assistants and how to promote seamless teamwork experience in the OR. After a few rounds of prototyping interactions and usability tests, I delivered a solution of enhanced interfaces for Xi robot and a tiered structure of support for OR users. With the new design, the average troubleshooting time is decreased by half. It was then translated into a storytelling demo featuring future user experience with surgical robots, which was widely received across design, engineering, production and marketing divisions.

Problem Statement

Effective communication has always been a challenge among different staffs in the OR; it becomes even more complicated when we bring robots into the surgical operation. While Intuitive Surgical has developed an amazingly sophisticated console for surgeons, other clinical staffs in the OR, for example, scrub tech or circulating nurses, have to rely on a screen that is far away from them to assist in the surgery. In addition, because the screen is original designed for surgeons, it's hard for assistants to associate information on the screen to the actual robot, which causes potential mismanipulation of robotical arms or surgical instruments.

Design and Prototype

I identified 5 usability issues after spending two weeks observing and interviewing clinical engineers and surgical teams. Then I drove three design initiatives from concept through viability test. I was able to leverage resources from hardware and software team to build functional prototypes for both physical and digital interfaces within tight schedule.

Unfortunately I'm not able to share more details on the design due to NDA and patent filing process before product release.


"During her summer internship at Intuitive Surgical, Maggie prototyped some novel UI concepts for a pet project of mine. She did a great job, and was a pleasure to work with. She was able to take input from me and a Sr. Interaction Designer and run with it. Her enthusiasm and talent resulted in a very successful demo for senior executives after only weeks of work. Maggie was able to combine software development, visual design, human factors, and presentation skills to bring a concept to life. I would enjoy working with Maggie again."

-- Paul Millman, VP of Product Solutions at Intuitive Surgical

"Maggie completed a summer internship with the Interaction Design group at Intuitive Surgical. She was tasked with exploring methods to enhance visual feedback and troubleshooting for sterile and non-sterile users of our robotic surgery platform. Maggie has a very versatile technical and artistic skill set for design ideation. She is self-sufficient, highly resourceful and well organized. She did a fantastic job delivering on the project objectives and substantively moved the ball forward in our understanding of the problem and viability of different solutions. I look forward to future opportunities to work with Maggie again."

-- Brandon Itkowitz, Principal Interaction Design Engineer at Intuitive Surgical