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Five New Healthcare Robots

Robotic Assistants Cut Costs

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted December 10, 2012

The healthcare sector has seen some of the fastest and most pervasive growth in robotics. The da Vinci Surgical System was something of a watershed moment in the sector, gaining a place in hospitals all across the country.

Now, Information Week has come up with a list of some of the most compelling medical robotic developments out there.

Here are five of the most interesting ones:

1. Vasteras Giraff

Developed by Giraff Technologies of Sweden, this is essentially a mobile communication tool with wheels, a camera, and a monitor—all remote controlled. Think of it as a two-way video communication system on wheels.

Its main function is to provide the housebound or elderly with a communication system. So far, 42 units have been delivered across 7 European countries.

2. Aethon TUG

This robotic system takes care of something many probably don’t even think of as an issue but which can actually cost up to $4 million a year in a 300-bed facility: pushing carts.

The robot moves basic supplies like medication carts, linens, or food around the facility. It can move through corridors as scheduled to make deliveries. The company claims one such unit working two shifts daily would end up costing less than one full-time employee while doing the work of nearly three.

3. Remote Presence Virtual+Independent Telemedicine Assistant

iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) (of Roomba fame) paired up with InTouch Health to create the RP-VITA, which essentially combines iRobot’s AVA telepresence system with InTouch’s distance education tools.

The system allows physicians to provide healthcare remotely and it comes with mapping and obstacle detection facilities, avoidance technology, and an iPad interface. The system integrates with diagnostic devices and standard EMR systems. Eventually, the whole system will be mobile, navigating to specific target destinations remotely.

4. Bestic

This assistive eating device, created by Sten Hemmingsson and Ann-Louise Noren, is quite simply a robotic arm with a spoon attached to its end. Users can control the spoon’s movement via buttons, foot pedals, or a joystick.

5. Healthcare Robotics Nursing Assistant

Meet Cody. Cody’s a human-scale mobile manipulator. Nurses can control the system through a direct physical interface, or DPI, by moving the robot’s end effectors (black rubber balls attached to the robot).

According to the company, the novel interface significantly improves on existing human interface designs.

So there you have it. Expect to see one or more of these and other robotic systems in your local healthcare facility soon in the industry's effort to battle rising costs.

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