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Developing a Nursing Robot for Ebola Patients

This pulse xenon UV disinfection robot can kill c.diff in five minutes. Motion sensors guard the door while it cleans. (Photo courtesy of Xenex.)
This pulse xenon UV disinfection robot can kill c.diff in five minutes. Motion sensors guard the door while it cleans. (Photo courtesy of Xenex.)

Researchers at Oregon State University‘s Ebola Treatment Unit have been testing a Baxter robot to see how it might perform as a nurse. Let’s just say, hospital staff shouldn’t fear for their jobs just yet.

A video uploaded by the team shows the robot as it is remotely guided by humans. While the robot is able to pick up tweezers and a ball of gauze, it isn’t able to do much else with either item. The gauze remains wrapped in plastic and the tweezers aren’t being held in a way that would make them helpful. The robot also knocks over a pill bottle in the course of picking up something else. Unless the objective is to merely pass objects to the patient, the system appears to still need a great deal of work before it could even perform any basic of nursing duties.

One object, a very flat sheet piece of paper wrapped gauze, could not even be manipulated off of the tray. It might be easier to send a small RC car in with supplies!

Regardless, robotic nursing system is an important area to explore. With work, these systems could one day greatly assist in infectious disease management. Several robots are already being used in hospitals around the world for decontamination. Some, such as the Xenex, use ultraviolet light to kill germs. Others, still in development, hose down the protective gear worn by hospital staff.

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