The University of Almeria collaborates with an American company in the development of a software for a new generation of healthcare robots who work in hospitals and facilitate patient monitoring and telemedicine tasks. The medical robotics gaining ground in the digital age.
The robotics and health They are two disciplines destined to understand each other. Advances in the field of technology are radically changing some areas of health, as has been seen throughout this pandemic, in which the artificial intelligence It has been applied to the development of models that help to predict the evolution of the disease, to search for effective drugs against Covid-19 or to interpret X-rays in search of the presence of the virus in the body.
However, the revolution in the field of health that will arrive in the coming years will be led by robots, by medical robotics, which will facilitate care for sick people and will allow much more exhaustive monitoring of their parameters.
Advances in hospitals with medical robotics
The researcher of the Automation, Robotics and Mechatronics Group of the University of Almería, works in this field. jose louis whitewhich collaborates with the North American company InTouchHealth in the development of a assistive robotthat moves freely around the hospital and is capable of performing simple scanss, such as taking the temperature and evaluating the breathing of patients, among others.
But in addition, this new generation of robots also works as liaison between doctor and patientso that they greatly facilitate the implementation of the telemedicine.
Assistance robots, a reality in the United States and Germany
For the moment, these robots that have not arrived in Spain will not be long, they are a reality in hospitals in the United States and Germany, where these mechanical toilets share space and functions with their flesh and blood companions.
They have highly advanced technology, something that José Luis Blanco knows very well, who has applied his studies on robotics in the development of the software that allows them to move freely by the hospital environment.
As José Luis Blanco affirms, his specialty is making that the objects move, do not get lost and do not collide with anything. Basically, what is pursued in the development of the autonomous vehicle, a field in which this researcher is also an expert, thanks to a project led by the University of Almería, for the transformation of a normal electric car into a autonomous electric vehiclethat moves through a certain space, such as a university campus or a technology park, to ‘donate’ energy from its battery to the buildings that need it.
Location and mapping software for medical robotics
José Luis Blanco is in charge of developing a simultaneous localization and mapping softwarefor the configuration of a new model of mobile robot that this North American company will sell shortly.
“With our simultaneous location and mapping software we develop a new mobile robot that walks around hospitals and ICUs so that it can watch over patients, monitor them and can serve as a mobile base for doctors who are in other hospitalss offering their assistance in telemedicine”, explains José Luis Blanco.
This robotics specialist emphasizes the complexity of his work, since for a robot or any other device to move freely in a given space, many hours of work and development of software are required. sensors, location capabilities, interpretation of spaces… that allow the robot in question to make a, let’s say, mental image of the place where it is located.
Hospitals full of robotic toilets
This robot for the health sector has some capabilities of human beings, which allow you to move autonomously through the hospital environment without causing any damage. The software developed by José Luis Blanco for this ‘motorized nurse’ gives him perception. A set of sensors of all kinds work in a coordinated manner so that the device gets an idea of what is around it, a task that involves handling a huge amount of data.
In the same way, the program that equips the robot must allow it to know where it is at all times. For this reason equip a kind of GPS device that works outdoors and indoors, with which the robot acquires information about the place where it is. And what good is a locator if the robot doesn’t know where to go? For this reason, this device has been equipped with the ability to build maps of the environment in which they work.
José Luis Blanco explains that the robot builds these maps autonomously, moving around the environment and retrieving information to create a map. Although the usual thing, explains the researcher from the University of Almería, is for a person to help the robot in the preparation of maps, taking a tour with it through the environment in which it is going to work.
In addition, another basic issue for this robot to be effective is that it has the necessary ability to navigate the environment autonomously without crashing into anything or anyone.
Robots for hospitals in developing countries
These robots can develop a loutstanding social labor in disadvantaged countries, where there are not many doctors. It is capable of functioning as a link between doctor and patient, through telemedicine techniques, to facilitate remote carewith the use of the camera, the screen and all the patient monitoring devices that it is equipped with.
This research and his career in the field of robotics have been enough for José Luis Blanco to receive the Award for Young Researchers from the Social Council of the University of Almería in the field of Sciences, Health Sciences, Engineering and Architecture. One more incentive for this researcher, who is very clear that the work of robotics scientists is that their work “improve people’s quality of life, avoid dangerous jobs and generate new opportunities for wealth.”