Telepresence Puppet robot to let doctors work remotely

[From AsiaOne via Telepresence Options; more information is available from Ctrl Works]

Robot to help doctors work remotely

By Josephine Price
my paper
Monday, Mar 05, 2012

A robot will soon help doctors at one hospital check on patients.

Called the Telepresence Puppet, it could let doctors interact with their patients without having to be physically present.

A doctor can guide the robot, which runs on wheels, to the patient and communicate with him through the machine.

The doctor can see and hear the patient using the robot’s camera and microphone, and the patient can see and listen to the doctor through the robot’s screen and speakers.

These and other uses of the robot will be tested out in a pilot run by home-grown start-up Ctrl Works at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital next month.

Mr Sim Kai, chief executive of Ctrl Works, said innovations like the robot have been developed here in recent years “as the ratio of doctors to the general population is getting smaller”.

There are now 1.7 doctors for every 1,000 patients here, which is low compared to the ratios in Europe and North America, according to a Straits Times report published in November last year.

The Telepresence Puppet will be tested at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for one month. Different departments will try it out, and give feedback on its potential uses.

Though the robot’s price was not disclosed, Ctrl Works said it will be affordable and comparable to the cost of other commercial information-technology and audio-visual equipment.

The Telepresence Puppet was one of several innovations showcased last Friday at the inaugural Demo Asia event organised by International Data Group and Sphere Exhibits, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings.

Demo Asia is the Asian leg of the Demo event that originated in the United States in 1991.

It gives regional technology start- up companies a platform to launch their products to a global audience and a channel to seek investment.

Demo Asia attracted 72 start-ups from 14 countries, and they presented their products here last Thursday and Friday.

Mr Robin Hu, chairman of Sphere Exhibits, said the event can help Singapore create more entrepreneurs.

Citing last year’s Global Entrepreneuship and Development Index, Mr Hu noted that Singapore lags behind other countries in terms of venture-capital funding for start-ups.

Mr Matt Marshall, executive producer of Demo, said “Singapore lacks entrepreneurs”.

He referred to a conversation with a Singaporean friend who told him that Singaporeans have it so good that they are scared to start new enterprises.

Mr Hu said: “This is where Demo Asia comes in nicely.”


2 responses to “Telepresence Puppet robot to let doctors work remotely”

  1. I’m all for using technology to make work more efficient, especially the work of those in whom enormous amounts of training have been invested, such as doctors. However, I am a little concerned about applications like the one described above.

    It may be a problem that can be addressed by social presence research, but can Dr. Bot really replace Dr. Human? Will patient care suffer because of limited, degraded, or otherwise biased information via the robot interface?

    Moreover, is human contact with a doctor itself important to the health of the patient–will patients recover more quickly or fully if they know they are being treated directly by a human doctor rather than by robotic proxy? I think it would be a tall order for designers to implement a surrogate that fully obscures the role of technology in the exchange between patient and robotic doctor.

  2. Meghan C

    It’s a great invention but I feel like maybe it would just be easier if an actual doctor was present. The doctor would have to learn everything about the technology first and so would the patient. I don’t know if the doctor would have time for that. And what if there were glitches? It seems like maybe it would cause more problems than it was worth. It evokes telepresence though because it gives the patient the feeling that the doctor was actually there. The patient would be able to hear and see the doctor through the screen and speakers, and vice versa. The fact that the doctor could direct the robot around because it runs on wheels would also make the patient feel more like the doctor was in front of them. The doctor would also be experiencing telepresence because they would be seeing the patient through their screen and listening to them through their speakers and directing the robot as if they were actually there as well.

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