Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Canada have developed three different robots that can sense and measure patients’ healthcare parameters, including electrocardiograms, oxygen levels, respiration rates, and temperature.
One of the robots, comprising a robotic arm, contains electrodes in its fingertips, and can take measurements when it makes contact with a patient. Another, a smart insole, can monitor patient gait when worn in a shoe. The third, a humanoid robot, can keep track of oxygen levels, which may be useful in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The researchers hope that future iterations of their technologies may lead to the development of a unified healthcare assistant that can aid doctors by autonomously obtaining vital information from patients. In the age of COVID-19, minimizing close contact between patients and clinicians could help to reduce transmission.
“The recent pandemic demonstrates the need to minimize human-to-human interaction between healthcare workers and patients,” said Woo Soo Kim, a researcher involved in the study, in a Simon Fraser press release. “There’s an opportunity for sensing robots to measure essential healthcare information on behalf of care providers in the future.”
The devices were created using 3D printed origami structures, and so far, have been able to determine a wide array of basic physiological data in volunteers. At present, the robots are largely passive in how they obtain information, but the researchers have said that it may be possible to use artificial intelligence to allow the devices to interact with patients, and perhaps even make decisions such as prescribing medications.
Such devices may become commonplace in the future for routine medical checkups or health monitoring.