Nov 102010

Healthcare robot

While many movies and TV shows would have us believe that hospital sponge baths are only carried out by nurses at either end of the attractiveness spectrum, the reality is no doubt generally somewhere in between.

In fact, I’m sure a lot of patients and even more nurses would prefer such tasks were handled by a robot. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology seem to have reached the same conclusion and have developed a robot that can autonomously perform bed baths to keep bedridden patients clean.

For their work the researchers took Cody, a humanoid robot developed at Georgia Tech’s Healthcare Robotics Lab that comprises a Segway omnidirectional mobile base, two anthropomorphic arms with seven degrees of freedom and wrists equipped with 6-axis force/torque sensors. The end of the robot’s right arm is fitted with a specialized “bath mitt” and the robot gathers laser range data and images from a laser range finder and camera mounted above the robot’s torso.

After the robot scans the patient, the operator is presented with an image overlaid with a point cloud. Using a mouse, the operator selects two points that form the diagonal corners of a rectangular bounding box that the operator wishes to clean. After the robot transforms the points to 3D Cartesian points the robot autonomously executes the wiping behavior sequence using the right arm.

To test the robot the researchers commanded the it to wipe off a 1-inch square area of debris placed on the surface of a human subject’s upper arm, forearm, thigh, and shank. Using image processing the team determined the robot removed over 96 percent of the debris on four parts of the limbs and accomplished this using relatively low force.

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