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Are Robots the Nurses of the Future?

Are Robots the Nurses of the Future?

Those who are fans of science-fiction flicks might be holding their breath for a big breakthrough where scientists can begin using robots for every task. It's a concept that has been explored in several TV shows and movies (think: Back to the Future and "The Jetsons"), and even Disney has joined in on the fun with their movie Big Hero 6.

In Big Hero Six, the main character, Hiro, creates a healthcare robot that also fights crime. This robot was programmed to dispense care for people who need it by scanning them and assessing their illnesses in his database. The robot's database had thousands of medical conditions and procedures to address them properly. Baymax, the robot, used his built-in strength and his tools to ensure the safety and health of the patient.

For example, his hands could dispense antibacterial spray, and his palms could also be used as defibrillators, in case of an emergency.

But Baymax is a fictional robot imagined by Disney. Could this robot soon be our reality?

There are millions of robotics engineers around the world who have one goal: to achieve significant breakthroughs that would allow robotics to be effectively applied to medicine in order to improve their patients' quality of care. However, while a super strong, all-knowing robot might be out of the question (for now), recent breakthroughs and innovations in AI have made the idea of a robot for assessing the condition of a patient a real possibility.

As a matter of fact, there are some places, like Japan, that are constantly achieving breakthrough after breakthrough in the field of robotics, unleashing new creations with improved features for testing in medical facilities. The latest invention, called robot nurses, are currently being used in Japan as supplemental health workers, especially in nursing homes across the country. There are also other, larger robotic creations that can be used for tasks that put nurses at risk,  such as lifting and transporting patients. Other, smaller robots have been used for keeping patients company, combating their loneliness, and addressing their inactivity.

The robot nurse bear is only one of these creations. Developed by robotics engineers at Riken and Sumitomo Riko Labs, this robotic bear is currently used in elderly homes for assisting the patients in several endeavors. The robot is capable of assisting the patients in getting up, or to lift them from the ground in case they have fallen. The robot can also transfer patients to a wheelchair or carry them from point A to point B. Pressure ulcers are a problem in elderly patients, especially if they spend excessive time in bed. To combat this, the robot nurse bear can also periodically help turn patients in their beds, avoid putting pressure on the same part of the body, and prevent pressure sores from appearing.

These robots are perfect for the aging population in Japan and the world. Globally, the elderly population usually requires much more care than others, and with the shortage worldwide, the demand for nurses is rising.

Read on to see how robotic nurses are helping hospitals today!

Photo source: CNET