Domo Arigato, Dr. Roboto

The FDA has given clearance to the first-ever autonomous robot for use in medical settings. With it, doctors can examine patients from a remote location.

What's the Latest Development?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the "Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant" (RP-VITA), for "active patient monitoring in pre-operative, peri-operative and post-surgical settings." The five-foot-six-inch device, a joint creation of companies iRobot and InTouch Healthcare, can move autonomously thanks to built-in lasers, sonar, and sensors that keep it from running into people and objects. Through it, a doctor can evaluate a patient's condition from anywhere in the world using iPad-based software. The doctor's face actually appears on a screen that represents the robot's "head." The software can also connect to hospital systems and access patient records.

What's the Big Idea?

The RP-VITA represents another small step for robots as they enter into more real-world civilian settings. iRobot CEO Colin Angle says, "FDA clearance of a robot that can move safely and independently through a fast-paced, chaotic and demanding hospital environment is a significant technological milestone for the robotics and healthcare industries." The RP-VITA is expected to cost hospitals between $4,000 and $6,000 a month to operate. 

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