The progress being made with robotic nurses

The use of robots is in healthcare is something I've written about a few times, whether it's in elderly care environments, or helping support youngsters in hospitals.

A further sign of the developments being made in this field was provided by a recent paper that was published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI.

The researchers developed a robot that they hoped would be capable of performing many of the tasks currently required of nurses, and potentially even that of surgeons.

Complimentary skills

Whilst the team are confident in the skills of their robot, they don't envisage a time where humans will play no part in healthcare. Instead, they believe robots will augment and compliment the skills of human healthcare professionals.

"As a roboticist, I am convinced that robotic (co)workers and collaborators will definitely change the work market, but they won't steal job opportunities. They will just allow us to decrease workload and achieve better performances in several tasks, from medicine to industrial applications," the researchers say.

The neural network of each robot was trained using photographs of human beings conducting various healthcare related tasks. Humans were then used to guide the 'limbs' of the robot to help them imitate the motions involved in each photo. The aim wasn't to be a perfect replication but as near as possible.

The robot was then tested to see if the motions they were capable of performing were a good reflection of those undertaken by human professionals. When the performances were graded by observers, they were found to be capable around 70% of the time.

Suffice to say, whilst these initial results are promising, we're still an incredibly long way from robotic nurses entering our hospitals. A more likely initial foray is going to come via robots like that developed by Sanbot, which I wrote about recently. Their robot isn't providing any hands-on capabilties, but their digital display can do many things, such as providing telehealth, medicine reminders, general companionship and so on.

That seems a more likely pathway in the short-term before the capabilities of robotic limbs becomes anywhere near ready to be let loose in a care environment.

Originally posted at The Horizons Tracker