Posted on Feb 05, 2009, 10 a.m.
By gary clark
Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a robot that can be controlled remotely, enabling doctors on the front line to assess the extent of injuries as a soldier is being carried to safety.
Locating casualties on the battlefield can take several minutes and expose medics to incoming fire. To give those medics a "helping hand," researchers at Carnegie Mellon have engineered a robotic arm with numerous sensors capable of monitoring the soldier's condition. Using a wireless joystick, a physician located remotely can control the "robomedic," moving it along the soldier's body and watching results from a laptop to determine the extent of the injuries. The robotic arm not only resembles a snake, but it is equipped with several actuated joints. This gives it snakelike flexibility, so that it can to flex, retract and turn, working its way into tight spaces as necessary. It can even perform a basic medical assessment when the soldier cannot be brought off the field immediately.
Working closely with the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), researchers are developing ways to incorporate the robotic arm into the military's Life Support for Trauma and Transport system. This high-tech "stretcher," onto which an injured solider is loaded, includes a ventilator, defibrillator and other monitors. With this portable intensive-care unit, medics have immediate access to important life-saving equipment.
Among several physiological sensors attached to the robomedic include a carbon dioxide and oxygen detector that can be used to determine whether a soldier is still breathing. The robot can also be equipped with an oxygen mask, and when connected to the stretcher's ventilator, it may be able to be moved to the soldier's mouth and deliver oxygen. The researchers are looking at adding other capabilities, for example an ultrasound function that can look for internal bleeding.
There could be other applications for battlefield use of the robomedic, notes Sylvain Cardin, a senior medical robotics scientist at TATRC. "It could be on a small vehicle you could send into the field, and the medic could attend the patient in a remote location," says Cardin. "So you could be under fire, and could send this little vehicle out with the snake arm, and be able to attend the casualty without showing everyone we're attending the casualty."
News Release: A robomedic for the battlefield www.technologyreview.com February 3, 2009