Robots that can perform basic medical tasks while supporting the work of doctors and nurses could be the future. This is the idea behind the 3D structural robots being developed and tested at Simon Fraser University.
The research team programmed two robots – a humanoid figure and a robotic arm – to measure human physiological signals. The robotic arm, created using 3D printed origami structures, contains biomedical electrodes at the tips of each finger. When a hand touches a person, it picks up physiological signals, including an electrocardiogram, which tracks heart rate, breathing rate, electromyogram (tracking the electrical signals of muscle movements), and temperature.
“The recent pandemic demonstrates the need to minimize human interaction between healthcare providers and patients. Sensory robots have the ability to measure important health information on behalf of future health care providers.”Wu Su Kim, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechatronic Systems, Simon Fraser University
The humanoid robot can also monitor oxygen levels, which can be used to monitor the condition of those who develop severe COVID-19. Data can be viewed in real-time on a robot monitor or sent directly to a healthcare provider.
Scientists are planning further development and testing of the robot together with employees from the healthcare sector. At this stage, robots can passively collect information about patients. But over the next decade, it is entirely possible that AI-powered medical robots could play a more active role, interacting with the patient, processing collected data, and even prescribing medications.
Further research will also require determining the levels of acceptance of this type of technology among different age groups – from young people to the elderly – in a hospital setting.