Boston Dynamics’ Spot helps reduce exposure of healthcare workers to coronavirus

Boston Dynamics always impresses, since its robots have crossed all the limits of what is known, pulling trucks, achieving difficult movement and unique postures. Now, the robotics company well respected for its pioneering autonomous machines in the industry is making a huge contribution to the fight against coronavirus by lending one of its most versatile robots to Harvard University’s Brigham And Women’s Hospital.

The medical team is using the company’s four-legged robot, Spot, as a mobile telemedicine platform, allowing healthcare providers to remotely triage patients. The function of the quadruped is very valuable as it uses a custom stand and case for an iPad or a similarly sized screen that is used for video conferencing between doctors and other healthcare workers and their patients.

According to Boston Dynamics, the reports of the work of Spot for the nursing teams are positive; it is helping to reduce risks to medical staff. The pandemic is requiring a qualified team of doctors and a large number of assistants to deal with the contagion; some have already died in service, and hence reducing the exposure of qualified teams has become extremely important.

Boston Dynamics Spot robot joins the fight against coronavirus
Credit: Boston Dynamics

Spot has a decisive advantage over rolling robots: its sophisticated movement system on four steel paws. Thanks to this, it also reaches places that are not accessible to wheel-based telepresence systems.

We are still in the early stages of developing this solution but also see a number of existing mobile robotics providers who have implemented this technology specifically for hospitals,” Boston Dynamics said in a statement.

In addition, the company announced that it is open-sourcing the hardware and software designs used to get these robots into the field so that other hospitals can use Spot in any way they see fit. These tools can enable developers and roboticists to rapidly deploy robots in order to help their nursing staff minimize time exposed to potentially contagious patients and combat the spread of COVID-19. “Together, we can improve conditions for healthcare workers and essential personnel around the world, save lives, and fight COVID-19.

Boston Dynamics does not want to stop there and is working to integrate temperature sensors and ways to analyze respiratory rate, pulse, and oxygen saturation. A small ultraviolet light will also be integrated into the robot to help disinfect.

In a similar initiative, some hospitals in China use machines from UVD Robots for the same purpose. Some countries using modified agricultural robots to conduct disinfectant spraying.