When you think of military robots, visions of dystopian science-fiction battlefields with AI-powered machines exchanging laser fire may come to mind.
However, in a far more humanitarian application, UK academics are inventing a potentially lifesaving medical system akin to a virtual reality triage video call.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield are developing a telepresence device to treat military members during war periods. Offsite medics will use virtual reality goggles and control a combat robot.
Using the same technology used in robotic surgery, the gadget can take the patient’s vitals. Currently, injured combatants are frequently seen by medical technicians who have minimal resources.
These paramedics frequently perform their duties at great personal risk (and, if contagious diseases and contamination are factors, a risk to others as well). If the patient requires additional care, transporting them to a safe area with adequate resources could take hours or days.
The proposed telepresence system would enable medical technicians to work remotely, utilizing the robot to collect data such as the patient’s temperature or blood pressure. The machines might, for example, take mouth swabs and blood samples from the patient’s arm.
Furthermore, it might communicate photographs and videos of injuries to off-site medical personnel, allowing them to analyze and perhaps treat the patient remotely.
Project co-lead Sanja Dogramadzi, a professor at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, sees the initiative as a lifesaving measure.
“Developing a remotely-operated robotic system would significantly improve safety by reducing the amount of danger military personnel are exposed to on the frontline.
“Our platform uses the latest technology and would integrate it in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Prof. said.