Updated: September 2, 2020 6:55:18 am
Researchers have shown that a robot can measure vital signs such as body temperature and breathing rate in people, from a distance. They now plan to test it in patients with Covid-19 symptoms, and hope the innovation can reduce the risk faced by healthcare workers who assess people with symptoms of Covid-19.
What is this robot?
The robot, called Spot, has been developed by Boston Dynamics, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Controlled by a handheld device, it can walk on four legs, similarly to a dog. Researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts showed it can measure skin temperature, breathing rate, pulse rate, and blood oxygen saturation in healthy patients, from 2 metres away.
The findings are currently on a preprint server.
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How does the robot make these measurements?
On the robot are mounted four cameras — one infrared, three monochrome.
BODY TEMPERATURE: The infrared camera measures skin temperature on the face. An algorithm then correlates the facial skin temperature with core body temperature.
BREATHING RATE: When a patient wearing a mask breathes, their breath changes the temperature of the mask. The infrared camera measures this temperature change, enabling researchers to calculate the breathing rate.
PULSE RATE & OXYGEN LEVEL: When haemoglobin binds to oxygen and flows through blood vessels, it results in slight changes in colour. These changes are measured with the help of the three monochrome cameras, which filter lights of three different wavelengths (670, 810, 880 nanometres). Using these measurements, the algorithm calculates pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation.
How far can it be useful against Covid-19?
The researchers said that in triage areas where suspected cases of Covid-19 assemble, healthcare workers can avoid exposing themselves to risk, by manoeuvring the robot to wherever patients are sitting. The robot can also carry a tablet that allows doctors to ask patients about their symptoms without being in the same room.
In the longer term, the researchers suggest that these robots could be deployed in hospital rooms.
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