Dr. Spot can remotely measure vital signs and help in pandemics

Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot looks a lot like man’s best friend. It has been used in many creative ways, from surveying a Ford plant in Michigan to herding sheep in New Zealand.

With the arrival of the pandemic, the company responsible for Spot announced that the robot would be used to help treat patients with COVID-19. Boston Dynamics did not specify, at the time, how this decision would materialize, but this week, together with MIT, the technology company announced the creation of “Dr. Spot,” a transformed model of the robot that can measure people’s vital signs without doctor-to-patient contact.

The team believes that the robot can be essential in flattening the transmission curve because it eliminates the need for contact between doctor and patient.

The Spot is a four-legged robot designed to move easily on surfaces where other devices cannot move, either autonomously or via remote control. Dr. Spot is equipped with contactless vital sign monitoring equipment, which includes radio signal emitters and sensors that allow it to measure vital signs, such as respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood oxygen saturation. A set of infrared cameras allows doctors to measure fever while maintaining social distancing from the patients.

Dr. Spot is also outfitted with a tablet to make it possible for doctors and nurses to speak with patients remotely. This will also help save resources when purchasing personal protective equipment necessary to fight pandemics like the one we are experiencing.

The article published by the researchers is the result of the first trial in a hospital with volunteers at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. They were able to overcome the problems caused by changing measurement conditions, and thus demonstrated the viability of their system. It will certainly take more clinical trials before it can be adopted by hospitals, but Dr. Spot seems to have a promising career.

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