How Robots Invade Our Health – In a Good Way

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Could you imagine a robot doing surgery on you? Yes, it sounds creepy, but according to Catherine Mohr, Senior Director of Research at Intuitive Surgical, this is the future. The company has developed the robotic system „da Vinci“, which performs minimally invasive surgery. At the gadget expo „Engadget Expo“ in San Francisco, Mohr talked about the advantages of robotic surgery. „Patients don’t need to stay at the hospital that long because they lose less blood and need fewer transfusions compared to open surgery“, explains Mohr. While implementing the da Vinci system is fairly expensive, Mohr stresses that robotic surgery can reduce hospital costs on the long-run and also results in less sick leave.

Naturally, the audience addressed concerns about the safety of this kind of surgery, to which the Intuitive Surgical representative responded: „Complications can happen, we’ll never bring the number down to zero.“ Though she insists that studies have shown that minimally invasive surgery is safer than open surgery.

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Russ Angold, co-founder of Ekso Bionic, showed another way of how tech can improve healthcare. The Berkeley-based tech firm has developed a robotic suit, which helps people with lower extremity paralysis to stand up and walk. The so-called Exoskeleton has sold 30 pieces so far. „It automates human capabilities and speeds up the rehabilitation process“, Angold sums up. The suit is battery-powered and lasts up to six hours. Not only does Ekso help people walk again – Angold agrees with Mohr that robotic technology will make healthcare more efficient: „Secondary complications that occur to paralyzed people will be reduced as they will be able to walk.“ Concerning safety issues, Angold says „It’s like asking if skateboarding is safe. There’s always gonna be a risk.“ Adds Mohr: „If you want people to be safe all the time, you’d have to force them to stay at home.“

While a lot of research is still needed for robotic health technologies, both Ekso Bionic and the da Vinci surgical system are interesting examples of what’s to come in the next few years. The future has already started.

You can find a video of a demonstration of the robotic suit here.

The da Vinci system is explained in detail on the Intuitive Surgical’s website.

Image courtesy of: © Engadget