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Robot doctors a solution to health budget woes


Australian hospitals are among the first in the world to embrace a robot doctor developed by British artificial intelligence experts.

The prototype RoboDoctor has been created as a fully-functioning, electronic medical practitioner capable of fulfilling all the duties carried out by senior medical officers, registrars, general practitioners and other specialists.

Constructed at a recommissioned British Leyland factory in the English Midlands using materials and ideas borrowed from the British Broadcasting Corporation, the RoboDoctor has multiple articulated robotic arms and a high resolution LED screen mounted on a Dalek-like chassis.

Initially developed for the NHS as a means of providing basic hospital medical services and procedures such as amputations and tracheotomies, RoboDoctor has been refined and enhanced to provide the whole gamut of services from treating warts to brain surgery.

Developers MediCyber Pty Ltd said their creation embodied all the attributes of a top-class doctor, for a fraction of the price.

“RoboDoctor is a huge advance in medicine,” MediCyber chief engineer, artificial intelligence, Dr Dave Bowman said. “It is precise, efficient, knowledgeable and strong and, unlike the human version, it never gets tired or needs a break”.

Dr Bowman said RoboDoctor was controlled by a powerful CPU similar to that used for the Space Invaders electronic game, and two servo motors gave it a top speed of eight kilometres an hour.

He added that a vacuum unit modelled on the RoboMaid had been added to RoboDoctor’s base to enable it to double as a floor cleaner.

“In these cost-conscious times, RoboDoctor is the perfect solution,” Dr Bowman said. “It is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it doesn’t require shift loadings or overtime, and it even does the cleaning.”

As an extra function, the RoboDoctor comes pre-loaded with a selection of tracks from Clannad, Fergal Sharkey and The Coors, and work is underway to expand its musical range to include Air Supply and Richard Clayderman.

Before being approved for commercial release, RoboDoctor underwent stringent testing at Edinburgh University Medical School, taking part in numerous revues, drinking competitions and theatre productions, as well as doing volunteer work for a wide array of local charities.

Dr Bowman said RoboDoctor had taken the trials in its stride, and proved to be a popular member of the campus community.

He said he was confident its can-do attitude would see it become a successful doctor.

“We’ve loaded it up with all the Wikipedia entries needed to cover basic anatomy, as well as information on the most common ailments, drugs and treatments,” Dr Bowman said.

MediCyber has started mass production of RoboDoctor, but it is not known how soon the first units will arrive in Australia.
The company said 1 April was an auspicious day on which to be entering the Australian market.

Adrian Rollins