15 May 2007
Researchers at Gifu University's Graduate School of Medicine have developed a robotic patient that can respond verbally to questions about how it feels and move its body in ways that exhibit the symptoms of its ailment. The researchers, who developed a less sophisticated "sick" droid last year, claim this robot patient is the world's first to exhibit symptoms in the way it moves.
Modeled after an adult female and equipped with body parts that move in a smooth, human-like way, the android is designed to provide students with valuable hands-on experience in diagnosing rare medical conditions. For example, when suffering from myasthenia gravis -- an often misdiagnosed neuromuscular disease leading to muscle weakness and fatigue -- the robot tells the doctor its eyelids are heavy, and it changes its facial expression, slowly relaxes its shoulders and hunches forward.
"It was difficult to get the shoulder joints and shoulder blades to move like a human," says researcher Yuzo Takahashi. "In the future, we want to program the robot with more symptoms and create a very realistic learning tool." If all goes well, the robot will become part of the curriculum next year.
08 May 2006
A "sick" robot developed by researchers at Gifu University’s Graduate School of Medicine is providing hands-on educational assistance to future medical practitioners. When students touch its head and abdomen in places it feels pain, the robot says, "That hurts."
With 24 sensors embedded in its head and body under a layer of soft, warm (near body temperature) silicone skin, the robot can detect the hand pressure applied by the examiner. And depending on which of the 8 pre-programmed medical conditions -- which range from acute gastroenteritis to appendicitis -- it is suffering from, the robot provides a vocal response to the examiner's questions and manual pressure.
Developers claim the robot helps students cultivate medical examination skills, and it is being used in classes beginning this academic year. The students appreciate the robot, claiming it helps improve confidence before performing examinations on real people.
"Great pains were taken to provide the sensors with a human level of sensitivity," says professor Yuzo Takahashi (57), who developed the robot. "We would like to make further improvements and expand the number of symptoms the robot can respond to."
[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]