Your robot news for an Olympics weekend

rp-vitaThe RP-VITA (Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant) robot for live remote consults is the result of a joint partnership between the busy robotics firm iRobot and remote presence telemedicine company InTouch Health. Built on the iRobot Ava, it can navigate safely through halls, rooms and wards; access patient records; and with human assistance perform exams. The stethoscope is built in and the robot directly connects to other diagnostic devices. The doctor controls the robot through an iPad interface, but the robot can navigate using its own avoidance system. Interesting to think of it in a variety of settings such as a retail clinic, on-site office or factory, or (ruggedized and with battery backup) in a field hospital behind combat lines or post-natural disaster. The article also takes us aside for a short history of ‘robot doctors’ dating back to the 1920s. Just debuted at InTouch’s Clinical Innovations Forum in California concluding tomorrow. iRobot introduces telepresence doctor (Gizmag)

Your Editors are also fond of robotic assistance for mobility (think exoskeletons to mobilize the disabled and in rehabilitation: Ekso Bionicsmart-suit-1 TA 31 Jan; Ekso, Cyberdyne and others 28 Oct 11) but existing units are fairly rigid, bulky and when batteries run down… This latest development is more like a ‘smart suit’ that assists the natural muscles to do more. The specs state that it be flexible, soft and snug fitting to go under clothing, not over it. DARPA is supplying $2.6 million in funding development to Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. It’s of course defense related–assisting soldiers to do and carry more in the field. Civilian applications are already envisioned. This has all kinds of revolutionary potential in assistance and training, particularly the feedback loop when sensors detect fatigue–and Ed. Donna does not say this casually. Now if they can only make it ‘female friendly’ like the US Army is finally doing with body armor. DARPA awards contract to create “smart suit” to improve soldiers’ endurance (Gizmag) Ed. Donna–A robotically assisted Olympics one day?