Should Robots Provide Hospital Spongebaths?
In the future, hospital nurses might be able to pass off the chore of patient spongebaths to robotic replacements, thanks to new research at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
A hospital spongebath is usually associated with buxom nurses or hygienic nightmares. But either way you slice it, the need to keep bedridden patients clean presents unique and often embarrassing challenges.
Using a Segway omnidirectional mobile base, two anthropomorphic arms with seven degrees of freedom and wrists equipped with 6-axis force/torque sensors, scientists at GIT’s Healthcare Robotics Lab developed Cody, a robot that can autonomously perform bed baths to keep bedridden patients clean.
The end of the robot’s right arm (a) is fitted with a specialized “bath mitt” (b) and the robot gathers laser range data and images from a laser range finder and camera mounted above the robot’s torso, reports Gizmag.
How it works: After the robot scans the patient, the operator is presented with an image overlaid with a point cloud. Using a mouse, the operator selects two points that form the diagonal corners of a rectangular bounding box that the operator wishes to clean. After the robot transforms the points to 3D Cartesian points the robot autonomously executes the wiping behavior sequence using the right arm.
In lab tests, the researchers asked Cody it to wipe off a 1-inch square area of debris placed on the surface of a human subject’s upper arm, forearm, thigh, and shank. Using image processing as described above, the robot was able to remove over 96 percent of the debris on four parts of the patient’s limbs using relatively low force.
Check out this video of Cody in action!
Although you’re not likely to see robot-nurses providing patients with assembly line-like care any time soon, there are a number of ways in which advanced robotics could be used to keep patients safer and more comfortable.
The research team at GIT has been working on several different healthcare robots, including devicies to support the needs of older or disabled adults living on their own, and robot mimics that could replace service and seeing-eye dogs.
Image Credit: GIT