12 Advances In Medical Robotics
January 29, 2011 06:00 AM Robots play a critical -- and growing -- role in modern medicine, from training the next generation of doctors, dentists, and nurses, to comforting and protecting elderly patients in the early stages of dementia. Using robots, medical professionals can make smaller incisions for shorter surgeries, reducing hospital stays and improving patients' prognoses and saving costs. As robots become even smaller and developers continue to further integrate the devices with artificial intelligence, the medical community will continuously expand the ways in which it uses this technology to save patients, improve quality of life and prevent health problems. At the other end of the spectrum, medical schools are turning to robots that mimic live patients' feelings of pain or discomfort to help the next wave of doctors and dentists prepare to treat real people. Of course, dummies and cadavers are not new to medical students, but by giving students access to sensitive patients, healthcare educators hope to hone the bedside manners of soon-to-be doctors and dentists.
The University of Tokyo Hospital is using Geminoid, a female-looking robot, in patient-communication trials. Developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, in conjunction with Kokoro, a Tokyo-based entertainment firm, Geminoid can move its eyes, shoulders, mouth, and head. The robot includes a camera and face-tracking software, but cannot walk. The robots are expected to sell for about $110,000, according to reports. They are intended to comfort patients, reducing blood pressure, stress, and other conditions associated with pre- and post-surgery and hospital stays.