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.

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Image Credit: GIT

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Tim Cheung
Tim C.4 years ago


Lin Moy
Lin M4 years ago

No one even ask if I wanted washed on my over night. But maybe because I was crashing and they wete to busy saving my life.

Ryder W.
Past Member 4 years ago

it's probably more gentle than a nurse lol...but i don't think it would be able to lift things and clean some places well enough

Patricia P.
Patricia P.4 years ago

When I give a bedbath, I look for things that need attention, and sometimes can give a simple treatment, like a little salve and a bandaid. If there is a reddened area, I can report that to the patient's MD and additional skin care procedures can be implemented. The robot is a bad idea. By the way, a robot does not CARE.

Patricia P.
Patricia P.4 years ago

I would say that this idea gets a "thumbs down" from most people.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

I'm an R.N. The human touch is healing. Also nurses and aides use the time for a patient bath to inspect the skin for sores. We talk and gain knowledge. Is the robot going to clean up the shit when it turns the body over? Sorry, I'm a nurse, a realist.

Laurie H.
Laurie H.5 years ago

Not too impressed now--after more improved models are worked on, the future will be interesting. There still is the power of "Human Touch Healing," to be considered here, as well as having "Human Contact," communication, etc. Even with advanced improvements down the road, I wonder how that will be compensated for.~

Emma Frandsen
Past Member 5 years ago

I don't like this...there is a healing power in the human touch, and I don't think it is wise to get rid of that

Kerry W.
Kerry W.5 years ago

Is that the best science can do? Pitiful! It was barely even touching the patient, let alone doing enough to clean off dirt. What about under the arms? The groin? Buttocks? Under the breasts? You know, those places that REALLY need cleaning? And how is a bedridden patient to be assisted to move, roll over, etc? This thing is WORTHLESS!

Bill C.
Bill C.5 years ago

OH I also find it vey nice it cleans 96% of debris, what's a dinglebery here and there....

No big Wo0T.

You want to pull my finger?