Intelligent Robotic Sonographer: Mutual Information-based Disentangled Reward Learning from Few Demonstrations

by   Zhongliang Jiang, et al.

Ultrasound (US) imaging is widely used for biometric measurement and diagnosis of internal organs due to the advantages of being real-time and radiation-free. However, due to high inter-operator variability, resulting images highly depend on operators' experience. In this work, an intelligent robotic sonographer is proposed to autonomously "explore" target anatomies and navigate a US probe to a relevant 2D plane by learning from expert. The underlying high-level physiological knowledge from experts is inferred by a neural reward function, using a ranked pairwise image comparisons approach in a self-supervised fashion. This process can be referred to as understanding the "language of sonography". Considering the generalization capability to overcome inter-patient variations, mutual information is estimated by a network to explicitly extract the task-related and domain features in latent space. Besides, a Gaussian distribution-based filter is developed to automatically evaluate and take the quality of the expert's demonstrations into account. The robotic localization is carried out in coarse-to-fine mode based on the predicted reward associated to B-mode images. To demonstrate the performance of the proposed approach, representative experiments for the "line" target and "point" target are performed on vascular phantom and two ex-vivo animal organ phantoms (chicken heart and lamb kidney), respectively. The results demonstrated that the proposed advanced framework can robustly work on different kinds of known and unseen phantoms.


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