Fighting Coronavirus: Researchers program robot to check vital signs of COVID-19 patients from 2 metres away!

By: |
September 2, 2020 5:32 PM

MIT postdoc Henwei Huang said that the goal of robotics was to use automation and remove humans from jobs that could be dangerous.

The researchers have published the findings of the study on a preprint server.The researchers have published the findings of the study on a preprint server. (Image: MIT)

COVID-19 medicare: Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have shown that a robot developed by Massachusetts-based robotics company Boston Dynamics can remotely monitor the vital signs of patients. The researchers used Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot called Spot, mounted it with four cameras and measured the vitals of healthy patients, like breathing rate, blood oxygen saturation, skin temperature, and pulse rate–all from a distance of two metres. In a statement, MIT said that it is now planning to test the robot with patients of COVID-19. The robot is controlled by a hand-held device.

The robot is also capable of carrying a tablet using which doctors would be able to talk to their patients without needing to be in the same room, the statement added. MIT postdoc Henwei Huang said that the goal of robotics was to use automation and remove humans from jobs that could be dangerous. This, Henwei said, helped them imagine the use of a robot to remove healthcare workers from directly exposing themselves to patients.

The researchers have published the findings of the study on a preprint server and it has also been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

COVID-19 robot: How does it work?

The four cameras mounted on the robot include three monochrome ones that filter different wavelengths of light and the fourth camera is infrared.

Body temperature: The statement said that the infrared camera measures the temperature of the face’s skin, and the algorithm developed by the team helps it in correlating this temperature with the core body temperature. The algorithm has also been designed to take into account the temperature around the patients and also the distance between the patient and the robot. That would ensure that even when the temperature is taken in different weather conditions with varying distances, the temperature measured by the robot would still remain accurate.

Breathing rate: The infrared camera would also monitor the temperature of the face mask that the patient is wearing. When a person wearing a mask breathes out, the temperature of the mask is bound to increase. When this is monitored, it can help researchers to calculate the rate at which the patient is breathing.

Pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation: The three monochrome cameras of varying wavelengths (670, 810, and 880 nanometres) help the researchers take notice of the slight change in colours that occurs due to the binding when the hemoglobin binds itself to the oxygen and then flows through the blood vessels. The researchers have developed an algorithm that would allow researchers to use these colour changes and calculate blood oxygen saturation as well as pulse rate.

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