A new robot medic could save lives in places too dangerous for human doctors to operate.
The remote-controlled robotic vehicle uses virtual reality to enable medics to check a casualty’s temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate and even give injections – without risking their lives.
The “game-changing” technology has potential to save lives in “high-risk” emergency environments – such as humanitarian disasters and war zones.
Using medical telexistence (MediTel) technology, researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Sheffield Robotics and the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, created the mobile, robotic-controlled uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV).
It boasts virtual reality (VR) capability, enabling medics and operators to assess critical casualties in hazardous environments, allowing them to perform a remote triage while also ensuring their safety.
The first-of-its-kind, fully integrated medical telexistence system was developed in just nine months.
It features two robotic arms which can effectively remotely operate medical tools to perform a critical initial assessment of a casualty within 20 minutes.
That includes temperature, blood pressure and heart rate checks.
It can also carry out palpation of the abdomen and administer pain relief through an auto-injector – all while streaming real-time data to the remote operator.
David King, Head of Digital Design at the AMRC, said: “Our MediTel project has demonstrated game-changing medical telexistence technology that has the potential to save lives and provide remote assessment and treatment of casualties in high-risk environments such as humanitarian disasters.”
“Developing and field testing a state-of-the-art, complex system such as MediTel in just nine months has been an incredible achievement and a testament to the skills and capabilities of the entire project team.”
He said the team has developed a complete solution to perform triage of casualties in hazardous environments.
Mr King added: “MediTel combined existing medical devices with state-of-the-art robotics systems to develop a platform capable of allowing a remote operator to navigate through potentially difficult terrain and provide critical diagnoses of high-risk casualties.”
Professor Sanja Dogramadzi, director of Sheffield Robotics, said: “This project has allowed us the opportunity to develop a platform that could be used by multiple emergency response services.
“It now serves us with the basis for our research to be extended and look into enabling resilient autonomy and integrating other sensing modalities to assist patient triage in other remote settings.” Professor Dogramadzi is the author of Medical Robotics Handbook.
MediTel was one of three novel telexistence technologies funded through a two-phase £2.3million ($3 million) innovation competition run by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) on behalf of joint funders, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Dr. Nicky Armstrong, technical lead at Dstl, said: “Telexistence technologies have the potential to remove end users from harmful environments and/or rapidly insert specialists as required.
“The prototype technologies developed under the Dstl Telexistence project have enabled us to demonstrate the art of the possible to end users, so that we can better understand where telexistence could add value to defence and security environments.”
Now the Sheffield team is looking to build on the project’s success by seeking further funding and partners to realize the potential of MediTel medical telexistence technology to revolutionize how people could be medically triaged in dangerous incidents where it is unsafe.
They want to explore the development of the technology into a large-scale integrated medical emergency platform, capable of rapid deployment to humanitarian disasters with multiple casualties and enabling remote medics to provide lifesaving treatment.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker