It might not have the most comforting appearance but it will at least be saving lives. The smaller version of the company’s “Big Dog”, Boston Dynamics is putting the robot Spot to work as a frontliner in hospitals in Boston, allowing healthcare workers to communicate with patients over a safe, remote distance. Going beyond the call of duty, the former Google subsidiary is also opening up its hardware and software so that other robot makers could follow suit.
Spot has already given people the shivers due to its eerie look. Imagine the almost cyberpunk-like experience of having that visually headless robot suddenly have a human face thanks to an attached iPad. That’s exactly what Spot looks like as it is employed at one Boston hospital, acting as a telemedicine machine to reduce the risk of infecting doctors caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Telemedicine is now being used as a way to reduce contact between doctors and patients who may be carrying the COVID-19 coronavirus. It is, to some extent, a specific form of video conferencing that allows doctors and patients to communicate remotely to stem the spread of the virus. The iPad provides the visual element while a two-way radio on Spot’s back provides the audio communication.
Boston Dynamics, however, isn’t just lending its robots to that purpose. It has announced that it is open sourcing not just its Spot software but also its hardware designs so that others can follow its lead. Whether they have the resources to make or even rent a similar robot, however, is a different matter entirely.
Boston Dynamics is also planning to expand the capabilities of this medical Spot beyond telemedicine purposes. To further assist in the remote triage of patients, the robotics company is looking into thermal and RGB cameras to measure patients’ temperatures and even blood oxygen levels.