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Here is an interesting new robotic surgery assistant: the ARTAS™ System. It was recently cleared by the FDA (read more). ARTAS apparently helps with something called ‘hair follicle harvesting’, according to Restoration Robotics, the company that invented and produces the system.
The procedure is as follows. The client first sits in the Artas chair, and then his hair is millimetered. Then, a robotic arm equipped with a camera initiates ‘small dermal punches’ and harvests individual follicles. This is under the control of a doctor. The follicles, which are later transplanted by hand, will start producing their own hair over months.
Here is a paper (PDF) in the Dermatology Times that reports the results of trying out a prototype of the device. Apparently, no sutures or bandages were required and using ARTAS is quicker and less invasive than other hair transplantation techniques, like strip harvesting where a strip of skin with hair is transplanted to a balding area. The company expects to reach extraction rates to 750 to 1,000 follicular units per hour. In addition, it may require fewer staff (although robot support engineers should probably be on standby).
Recently, on October 25, Jeroen spoke at a workshop about healthcare robotics. It was organised bij Kennisalliantie and Syntens, who wish to set things in motion, especially in the Dutch ‘Medical Delta’ (roughly Rotterdam-Delft-Leiden). Prof. Luc de Witte opened the day, followed by Boudewijn Wisse, and finally Jeroen Arendsen. In the afternoon the discussion was continued in groups. The video gives a good impression of the day. For Robots that Care the initial contact with Zorgbelang, represented by mrs. Aat Hoffius, may well lead to further developments.
A fairly far fetched robot was in the news recently: Future Surgeons May Use Robotic Nurse, ‘Gesture Recognition’.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 3, 2011) — Surgeons of the future might use a system that recognizes hand gestures as commands to control a robotic scrub nurse or tell a computer to display medical images of the patient during an operation.
I believe, partly based the insightful comments given at Nursing Advocacy, that it is not a good idea to replace human scrub nurses with robotic ones. It would be much better to solve the shortage of nurses). In this case, there is so much a scrub nurse does, so much more than a robot can do, for at least the next fifty years or so.
But there will be a publication in the Communications of the ACM soon. That will be an interesting read
Internet polls. Hardly reliable, but sometimes interesting to read. The Dutch website Zorgvisie held a poll about: ‘More robot helpers by the bed. An improvement for healthcare or not?’. The result: 73 procent of the 371 responding visitors of Zorgvisie.nl felt it was not an improvement. But what does this mean exactly?
It pays to have a look at the cause of the poll, which was news (i.e. on Zorgvisie) about a German ‘Helper Robot’, the Casero (see picture). There are more of such robots under development (e.g. Care-o-Bot). One could describe them as driving carts, with clever bits and pieces, that can serve drinks and food for example.
According to the researchers developing him the idea behind Casero is (source: Robotics Wire):
When the Duisburg researchers observed the care workers’ daily routines and tasks, they soon noticed that there was seldom enough time to exchange a few kind words with patients. Staff shortages were everywhere. While the robots run errands and allow games to be played on their displays, care workers could devote more of their time to caring for the elderly.
Well, that line of reasoning is interesting, but illogical if buying an maintaining robots is as expensive as hiring people. Then it should be seen as replacement. For Zorgvisie also report:
The robot is hardly cheap. “Casero is as expensive as a fulltime hire”, says Volker Bessler of the care home in Stuttgart where the first service robot was tested.
In this light, it is understandable that most people rejected the idea that it constitutes an improvement. And then we have not even discussed all the things the robot can not do.
A collection of movies.
At CES 2011, look who’s there
It’s Fujitsu’s Robot Teddy Bear!
For about two years Fujitsu has been displaying this robot teddy bear at various tradeshows. They tell us it is ‘still in development’ or ‘in a concept phase’. It does seem to be responding better every time I see it. In any case it manages to win the hearts of many already.
The area of (useful) application for this robot is comparable to that of Paro. Fujitsu Labs develops this “social robot with a personality” for use in “robot therapy”, for example for patients that suffer from dementia, says Fujitsu. The bear can display basic emotions through animatronics and react to its surroundings.
It can be connected to a PC using a USB port. Sensors enable it to respond to external stimuli; it is equipped with 13 sensors (e.g. a webcam, touch sensors, etc.) in different locations on its body. The bear has a camera in its nose and machine vision to recognize human shapes and faces. It can see a person nearby and, for example, turn in their direction and make eye contact. It als senses being patted or stroked in various places and can respond, for example, by waking up (from sleeping).
The bear can apparently talk with the voice of a young boy, using a speech synthesizer and a built-in speaker. Thus, the sound can be synchronised with the robot’s other behavior.
The robot bears are said to capable of up to 300 movement patterns including raising its arms, looking downwards and kicking its feet. The movement are combined with display of “emotions” to signal happiness, sadness and anger, says Fujitsu. And since the robot can be connected to the PC, new movements can be recorded and displayed.
What makes these robots interesting, says Fujitsu, is that they are interactive and real, in a world that is full of screens. The bears can be played with physically and are likely to integrate easily into people’s lives, says the company.
Fujitsu hopes its teddy bear can help develop “robot therapy,” a way to use robots to help people overcome challenges or problems, comparable to how “animal therapy” is used today, only without the hassle of having to clean up or deal with grumpy animals.
Hopefully we will be seeing more from this robot teddy bear soon when it comes available as a product. I think Paro could use a little competition in the market, don’t you?