For the past eight months, Boston Dynamics has been trying to find ways in which their friendly yellow quadruped, Spot, can provide some kind of useful response to COVID-19. The company has been working with researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts to use Spot as a telepresence-based extension for healthcare workers in suitable contexts, with the goal of minimizing exposure and preserving supplies of PPE. For triaging sick patients, it’s necessary to collect a variety of vital data, including body temperature, respiration rate, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation. Boston Dynamics has helped to develop “a set of contactless monitoring systems for measuring vital signs and a tablet computer to enable face-to-face medical interviewing,” all of which fits neatly on Spot’s back. This system was recently tested in a medical tent for COVID-19 triage, which appeared to be a well constrained and very flat environment that left us Continue reading Why Boston Dynamics Is Putting Legged Robots in Hospitals
Let’s talk about bowels! Most of us have them, most of us use them a lot, and like anything that gets used a lot, they eventually need to get checked out to help make sure that everything will keep working the way it should for as long as you need it to. Generally, this means a colonoscopy, and while there are other ways of investigating what’s going on in your guts, a camera on a flexible tube is still “the gold-standard method of diagnosis and intervention,” according to some robotics researchers who want to change that up a bit. The University of Colorado’s Advanced Medical Technologies Lab has been working on a tank robot called Endoculus that’s able to actively drive itself through your intestines, rather than being shoved. The good news is that it’s very small, and the bad news is that it’s probably not as small as you’d Continue reading Robotic Tank Is Designed to Crawl Through Your Intestine
Everybody loves Paro. Seriously, what’s not to love about Paro, the robotic baby harp seal designed as a therapeutic tool for use in hospitals and nursing homes? It’s cute, it’s cuddly, it wiggles and makes pleasing noises, and it’s been carefully designed to be the least uncanny valley robot you’ve ever met, because none of us are lucky enough to have real live baby harp seal experience to compare it to. Over the years, a bunch of studies have shown that Paro (which was designed from the beginning to be a medical device) is able to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood, particularly in older adults with dementia. What hasn’t been explored is Paro’s effect on physical pain—if something hurts, can Paro help you feel better? Nirit Geva, Florina Uzefovsky, and Shelly Levy-Tzedek at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel, have just published a new study in Scientific Reports Continue reading Cuddling Robot Baby Seal Paro Proven to Make Life Less Painful
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!): ICRA 2020 – May 31-August 31, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] RSS 2020 – July 12-16, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference] ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.
Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers form the front line in the fight against pandemics. Not only are they needed to treat sick patients, but they also put themselves at high risk of contracting the disease themselves. In the COVID-19 outbreak, thousands of doctors and nurses have fallen ill, and hundreds have died. These risks become even more hazardous when shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) leave healthcare workers no alternative but to reuse or improvise PPE. The interest in using robotics to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak has been huge, and for good reason: Having more robots implies less person-to-person contact, which means fewer healthcare workers get sick. This also reduces community transmission, while consuming fewer supplies of PPE. At the same time, the use of telemedicine to allow doctors and nurses to communicate with patients without the risk of infection is rising sharply. And although robots have so far Continue reading How Medical Robots Will Help Treat Patients in Future Outbreaks
UV disinfection is one of the few areas where autonomous robots can be immediately and uniquely helpful during the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these robots to fulfill demand right now, and although companies are working hard to build them, it takes a substantial amount of time to develop the hardware, software, operational knowledge, and integration experience required to make a robotic disinfection system work in a hospital. Conor McGinn, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Trinity College in Dublin and co-leader of the Robotics and Innovation Lab (RAIL), has pulled together a small team of hardware and software engineers who’ve managed to get a UV disinfection robot into hospital testing within a matter of just a few weeks. They made it happen in such a short amount of time by building on previous research, collaborating with hospitals directly, and leveraging a development platform: the TurtleBot 2.
In 2014, there was an Ebola epidemic in West Africa that killed over 10,000 people. The outbreak was mostly contained to the region, but the rest of the world was (understandably) concerned about what could happen if the virus, which has a mortality rate of about 50 percent, were to spread at some point in the future. In the United States, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation, along with other agencies and academic institutions, held a series of workshops on how roboticists could potentially be useful during an outbreak, epidemic, or pandemic, with a focus on West Africa. Since Ebola didn’t turn into a global threat, at the time things didn’t progress much farther than those workshops, but there’s now a renewed and much more urgent interest in using robots to help fight infectious diseases. Dr. Robin Murphy, an IEEE Fellow and Continue reading New Consortium Mobilizes Roboticists to Help With COVID-19 and Future Crises
Robots are hard at work in hospitals doing what they can to help us get through the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to sterilizing rooms and delivering medication and supplies, robots are helping hospital staff to work much safer and more efficiently through telepresence. iRobot spinoff Ava Robotics has telepresence robots deployed in hospitals, where they’re enabling doctors quarantined at home to stay present in emergency rooms and allowing nurses to see patients without having to worry about personal protective equipment. The robots are lowering the risk of infection while making it possible for hospital staff to stay productive even if they’re at home or under quarantine themselves, adding a little extra slack to an overstressed system.
For the last several years, Diligent Robotics has been testing out its robot, Moxi, in hospitals in Texas. Diligent isn’t the only company working on hospital robots, but Moxi is unique in that it’s doing commercial mobile manipulation, picking supplies out of supply closets and delivering them to patient rooms, all completely autonomously. A few weeks ago, Diligent announced US $10 million in new funding, which comes at a critical time, as the company addressed in their press release: Now more than ever hospitals are under enormous stress, and the people bearing the most risk in this pandemic are the nurses and clinicians at the frontlines of patient care. Our mission with Moxi has always been focused on relieving tasks from nurses, giving them more time to focus on patients, and today that mission has a newfound meaning and purpose. Time and again, we hear from our hospital partners that Moxi Continue reading How Diligent’s Robots Are Making a Difference in Texas Hospitals
When I reached Professor Guang-Zhong Yang on the phone last week, he was cooped up in a hotel room in Shanghai, where he had self-isolated after returning from a trip abroad. I wanted to hear from Yang, a widely respected figure in the robotics community, about the role that robots are playing in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. He’d been monitoring the situation from his room over the previous week, and during that time his only visitors were a hotel employee, who took his temperature twice a day, and a small wheeled robot, which delivered his meals autonomously. An IEEE Fellow and founding editor of the journal Science Robotics, Yang is the former director and co-founder of the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College London. More recently, he became the founding dean of the Institute of Medical Robotics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, often called the MIT of China. Yang wants Continue reading Coronavirus Pandemic: A Call to Action for the Robotics Community