Boston Dynamics Spot Robot Turns Rescue Dog As COVID-19 Telemedicine Assistant
Boston Dynamics has built some fantastic robots over the years, and though we often joke about an inevitable uprising in the vein of Skynet, their is a ton of engineering that goes into making these contraptions highly useful in the right settings. Serving as a reminder, hospitals are reaching out to Boston Dynamics about using its robots in healthcare settings to reduce staff exposure to COVID-19. A robot called Spot is answering the call.
As we all know, healthcare workers are on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic and can use all the help they can get. To assist with a shortage of supplies, companies like Intel and Razer are donating masks and money, while boutique PC builder Maingear is producing custom, low cost ventilators that look like computer towers.
It's great to see companies stepping up to help. As it pertains to Boston Dynamics, the robotics maker said Spot has been deployed at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Massachusetts for the past two weeks, where it is being used as a mobile telemedicine platform. This allows the nursing staff to minimize exposure to potentially contagious patients.
Spot is a four-legged robot that wasn't necessarily built for healthcare settings. It is able to climb stairs and traverse rough terrain, with IP54 rain and dust protection to withstand the elements (like a rainstorm). Spot has a runtime of 90 minutes, a swappable battery back, and 360-degree vision.
Some of the initial intended applications for Spot have included construction sites, oil and gas facilities, public safety settings (operators can keep a safe distance from dangerous locations and still have eyes on the situation), and entertainment. Go ahead and add healthcare to the list.
"With current protocols at local hospitals, patients suspected to have COVID-19 are asked to line up in tents outside to answer questions and get initial assessments for temperature. This process requires up to five medical staff, placing those individuals at high risk of contracting the virus. With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply," Boston Dynamics explains.
In the healthcare setting, Spot is equipped with an iPad and a two-way radio mounted to its back. This allows nurses and doctors to hold video conferences with patients as Spot navigates among sick individuals in the tents.
This is just the beginning. Boston Dynamics says it is looking into configuring Spot to remotely measure vitals, such as body temperature, respiratory rate, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation. Spot also has the potential to disinfect areas by attaching a UV-C light or other technology to its back.
Good stuff, Boston Dynamics.
Spot® robot images provided courtesy of Boston Dynamics, Inc.