How far would you let a hospital robot go before you insisted on a ‘real person’ taking over? Would you let a robot operate on you? Give you a needle? Wash you? Deliver a meal?
Whether we like it or not, hospital robots are rapidly spreading and are taking up tasks that most people would prefer not to do, or put more accurately simply don’t have the time to do. These robots are freeing up valuable time so that healthcare professionals can get back to their core tasks – looking after people.
Robots are now carrying out delivery roles in larger hospitals, meaning that staff don’t have to walk thousands of metres each day simply carrying stuff from A to B. These staff can now spend more time with their patients thus improving the level of care they can offer. Indeed this technology is what we call an ‘enabler’; it takes over specific tasks that then start a virtuous cycle – staff can spend more time with patients, being less rushed, decreasing errors and helping improve patient recovery.
Much of the developed world is approaching a ‘grey tsunami’ where an ageing population outstrips the healthcare industry’s ability to take care of it. Robots are touted as the solution to the looming challenge.
What I’m really interested in is how this technology might transform the way we move everyday goods around. Imagine delivery robots moving goods between factory and retail outlet, or factory and home. We’ve already seen pizzas being delivered by drone. We already have 3D printers magically creating solid objects out of dust, and even printing drones [to deliver more pizzas?]. How long until we see autonomous robot-vehicles shipping goods around our streets?
Ironically we’ll see robots visiting us at home to give us a medical check-up and likely even minor treatments. As long as they bring pizza and maybe a nice cold drink I’ll be ok with that.