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Healthcare And Robotics: A Future Trend?

In television and movies, robots take on almost-human characteristics to care for their charges or help out around the house (think Rosie the robot from the Jetsons) and you may wonder how far off in the future is a technology that can help out around the house and perhaps even help provide healthcare for our loved ones. The answer is: Perhaps not that far off or unrealistic a notion.

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University believe that in the future, robots could be designed that could someday, “feed, dress, and groom our parents when they get old.” Consider the advent of virtual medicine – where you deal with your physician virtually via a computer screen – and it’s easy to see that this technology is not so far-fetched.

Technology today, in addition to allowing for virtual doctor visits, is being utilized to diagnosis diseases and used in cognitive devices for adults. Robots are being designed that may eventually be able to assist with caregiving for seniors and those with physical disabilities. These robot devices could provide individuals a chance to live a more independent lifestyle.

A challenge faced by the technology is the need to develop a robot device that is able to physically touch and interact with the person in its care. Once perfected these devices could help dress, bathe and feed an individual in need of care and give the caregiver a much-needed break. In addition to being able to perform physical tasks the robot device would need to have the capability to monitor health issues and aid in diagnostics. Just as the wearable health devices on the market today, a robotic device would need to be equipped with the ability to track heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, steps taken and other health data.

The “brain” of the robot would also need to be developed so that it could interact in meaningful ways with the person it was caring for. Having a “brain” would allow the device to understand when particular health read outs were in abnormal levels and it would be programmed to call medical personnel. Currently Apple’s Siri and the Android voice interactions can respond to simple commands and this makes the development of a more sentient robot even more feasible. This would only work if the robot device initiated the contact and health monitoring instead of waiting for the individual being cared for to be the one to initiate the testing.

Until a robot healthcare provider is available and affordable enough for a family, individual health and care will continue to rely upon face to face intervention with doctors, caregivers and the use of personal products such as a personal medical alert device.