This new high-tech robot is currently being tested at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. And so far, it has visited 20 pleased patients.
Vaguely resembling a human torso, in a Star Wars R2D2 sort of way, the robot sports a computer screen for a head, a video camera for eyes and a speaker for a mouth. It walks, in a manner of speaking, on three balls, talks, and most importantly, listens. "That's because the robot is directly linked to a real doctor who uses the robot as it ears, mouth and eyes," says Louis Kavoussi, M.D., Hopkins professor of urology and a pioneer in robotic surgery. "And patients love it. I was very surprised how much our patients enjoy remote video interactions via the robot."
Here is a photograph of Dr. Robot in action (Credit: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions).
Here is how the system works.
Billed as the world's first remote-presence robot by its manufacturer, InTouch Health, Inc., the robotic system works something like an ultrarealistic video game, complete with a joystick for moving it about. Looking at a computer terminal, the doctor directing the robot sees what the robot sees and hears what the robot hears. At the other end, patients can see and talk to the doctor's face displayed on a flat screen that sits on the robot's "shoulders." All of this is connected to the Internet via broadband and a wireless network.
This new kind of robot is not intended to replace a human physician.
[But Kavoussi says] they can augment the regular interactions between patients and their physicians as well as be useful when it's not practical or possible to physically send in physicians, such as in military operations, natural or bioterrorist disasters, at sea, or in other remote or underserved locations."
Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, August 5, 2003
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