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Boston Dynamics Robo-Dog Could Soon Monitor Patient Vitals

Researchers have been able to monitor the vital signs in healthy patients using Spot, the robotic dog, and have now set their sights on using the technology in hospital emergency rooms to monitor coronavirus patients.

by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald / September 2, 2020
Shutterstock

(TNS) — Spot the robot dog is ready to see you now for your contact-free vitals.

Researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are exploring a new way to lower the risk for health-care workers amid the coronavirus pandemic — by using Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog to remotely measure patients’ vital signs.

“In robotics, one of our goals is to use automation and robotic technology to remove people from dangerous jobs,” Henwei Huang, an MIT postdoctoral researcher, said in a statement. “We thought it should be possible for us to use a robot to remove the health-care worker from the risk of directly exposing themselves to the patient.”

Using four cameras mounted on the dog-like robot, the researchers have shown that they can measure skin temperature, breathing rate, pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation in healthy patients.

They are now making plans to test their robotic approach in people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 in a hospital emergency department.

“We are thrilled to have forged this industry-academia partnership in which scientists with engineering and robotics expertise worked with clinical teams at the hospital to bring sophisticated technologies to the bedside,” said Giovanni Traverso, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the senior author of the study.

The robots — which are controlled by a handheld device — can also carry a tablet that allows doctors to ask patients about their symptoms without being in the same room.

In March when coronavirus cases started surging in Boston, many hospitals set up triage tents outside their emergency departments to evaluate people with COVID-19 symptoms. Health-care workers during this initial evaluation measure vital signs, including body temperature.

The MIT and Brigham and Women’s researchers came up with the idea to use robots to enable contactless monitoring of vital signs. This allows health-care workers to minimize their exposure to potentially infectious patients.

To achieve that, they used Spot — which can walk on four legs, similarly to a dog. Health-care workers can maneuver the robot to wherever patients are sitting.

The researchers mounted four different cameras onto the robot: an infrared camera plus three monochrome cameras that filter different wavelengths of light.

The researchers in the near term plan to focus on triage applications, but in the longer term, they envision that the robots could be deployed in patients’ hospital rooms. This would allow the robots to continuously monitor patients and also allow doctors to check on them, via tablet, without having to enter the room. Both applications would require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

©2020 the Boston Herald, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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