Hospital visits take on new meaning with therapeutic robots

May 14, 2013
Hospital visits take on new meaning with therapeutic robots
Credit: Shutterstock

Having hospital visits from a robot may sound like a strange form of therapy, but according to robotics experts, they can be extremely helpful therapeutic devices.

The idea comes from the MOnarCH project (Multi-Robot Operating in Hospitals). Coordinated by Lisbon's Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), the consortium of nine European companies and research centres from five countries aims to develop and introduce a fleet of robots that collaborate with medical personnel and interact with patients. The project will cost EUR 4.5 million, of which the EU has agreed to provide just over EUR 3.3 million.

The use of robots for therapeutic purposes is not an entirely new concept. Researchers have studied the benefits of social robots who have engaged with . The development of a Japanese Paro robot, was reportedly successful in improving the state of mind of elderly people. It has also been known to treat for depression following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which devastated the northeast coast of Japan in March of 2011.

However, the project aims to examine in closer detail societies in which humans and robots mix. Primarily, the three-year project will focus on children with cancer. Rather than a one-to-one (one , one patient), MOnarCH plans to develop a fleet or community of social robots that can interact with all patients, meeting their different psychological needs.

Scientists from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) Robotics Lab will be responsible for developing and programming all of the robots' actions and interactive behaviour. This includes developing ways in which the robots can converse with others, how they play with children, and how they adapt to the needs of each individual.

To evaluate these actions as well as the technological and , a is currently underway in the paediatric ward at the Portuguese Oncological Institute of Lisbon.

The researchers are keen to take robots out of the laboratory and place them in a real environment. Until now, most of the research on social robotics has taken place in very controlled environments. As Professor Salichs from UC3M points out, 'The introduction of a group of autonomous into surroundings with these characteristics is something new, and we hope that the project will help us to advance in the development of robots that are able to relate to people in complex situations and scenarios.'

Head of the project at UC3M, Professor Miguel Ángel Salichs at the University's Systems Engineering and Automation Department adds, 'We intend to move forward in the development of robots that can carry on autonomously for long periods of time without the aid of their operators, which is something that at this point has not been achieved in such complex situations.'

Explore further: Robots lending a helping hand to build planes

More information: Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon (IST) www.ist.utl.pt/en/
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) www.uc3m.es/portal/page/portal/home

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cloud-computing platform for robots launched

Mar 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers of five European universities have developed a cloud-computing platform for robots. The platform allows robots connected to the Internet to directly access the powerful computational, storage, and ...

Robots designed to clean up our streets

May 01, 2013

It sounds like something from a science fiction film, but the concept of robots cleaning our streets is becoming a reality with what is believed to be a world first.

Recommended for you

Robots lending a helping hand to build planes

22 hours ago

Trying to squeeze into small enclosed areas, carrying out highly repetitive tasks, retiring with back injuries even while your expertise is needed: these everyday realities of working in aviation construction ...

C2D2 fighting corrosion

Aug 22, 2014

Bridges become an infrastructure problem as they get older, as de-icing salt and carbon dioxide gradually destroy the reinforced concrete. A new robot can now check the condition of these structures, even ...

Meet the "swarmies"- robotics' answer to bugs

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —A small band of NASA engineers and interns is about to begin testing a group of robots and related software that will show whether it's possible for autonomous machines to scurry about an alien ...

Hitchhiking robot reaches journey's end in Canada

Aug 21, 2014

A chatty robot with an LED-lit smiley face sent hitchhiking across Canada this summer as part of a social experiment reached its final destination Thursday after several thousand kilometers on the road.

User comments : 0