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Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog helps doctors assess coronavirus patients

Spot has a new job as a telemedicine provider at a hospital.

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Boston Dynamics equipped Spot with an iPad and two-way radio to act as a remote connection between doctors and coronavirus patients.

Boston Dynamics
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Dr. Spot is in. Boston Dynamics' dog-like quadruped robot is helping to protect medical staff at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The company hopes robots can reduce the exposure of doctors and staff to COVID-19 and help hospitals conserve scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies. Spot's work falls in line with similar robotic efforts to ease the strain on health care systems. Robots took over for humans at a field hospital in Wuhan, China in March, for example, giving medical staff a much-needed break. 

Dr. Spot can help reduce the potential of exposure to the coronavirus.

Boston Dynamics

Spot has now been through a successful test run as a telemedicine platform at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Boston Dynamics equipped Spot with an iPad and a two-way radio that lets hospital staff communicate with patients who are lined up for initial health assessments.

"For every intake shift completed by a teleoperated robot shift, at least one health care provider is able to reduce their interaction with the disease," Boston Dynamics said in a blog post on Thursday.

Telemedicine is just the beginning for Spot's possible uses in medical settings. Boston Dynamics is now investigating ways to equip the robot with the ability to measure key vital signs, such as temperature and oxygen saturation. 

Spot could also become part of the cleaning crews needed for hospitals and public spaces. "By attaching a UV-C light or other technology to the robot's back, Spot could use the device to kill virus particles and disinfect surfaces in any unstructured space that needs support in decontamination -- be it hospital tents or metro stations," Boston Dynamics said.

Robots have stepped up throughout the pandemic. Human-size rolling telepresence robots stood in for graduating students at a university ceremony in Japan. Robots have helped enforce lockdown rules. A robotic COVID-19 testing system is in development as a way to speed up testing and protect lab technicians. 

Boston Dynamics is making the Dr. Spot hardware and software available as open-source designs through GitHub, and is encouraging other robotics companies to get on board. 

"Our hope is that these tools can enable developers and roboticists to rapidly deploy robots in order to reduce risks to medical staff," the company said. Spot, already a versatile robot, seems to have a found a vital new calling.