Forget everything you know about robots - the market is about to explode with growth. To date there has been much commercial success with floor cleaning and even window washing robots and both of these are huge markets. But they may be nothing compared with the next frontier of this amazing technology which will allow them to navigate around humans in operating rooms at hospitals.
You see iRobot just got FDA approval for a new robot to do just that.
The robot, also known as Remote Presence Virtual Independent Telemedicine Assistant (RP-VITA), received 510(K) clearance from the FDA and can be used for active patient monitoring in pre-operative, peri-operative, and post-operative situations.
“FDA clearance of a robot that can move safely and independently through a fast-paced, chaotic and demanding hospital environment is a significant technological milestone for the robotics and healthcare industries,” said Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot.
“There are very few environments as difficult to maneuver as that of a busy ICU or emergency department. Having crossed this technology threshold, the potential for self-navigating robots in other markets, and for new applications, is virtually limitless,” added Angle.
The machine itself will be about as tall as the average human and be integrated with a monitor and a web cam for the remote doctor consultations. The RP-VITA will also be fitted with a built-in stethoscope, allowing doctors to perform ear examinations.
This is an amazing milestone in the evolution of robotics and once we get used to robots in hospitals we won't be surprised to see them anywhere. They will become waiters in restaurants, help in our homes, shuttle items in warehouses more efficiently and will change countless other markets.
The trend had already started with the purchase of Kiva Systems by Amazon for $775 million less than a year ago. You may recall, these fascinating little devices shuttle heavy items all around a factory (see video above) enabling shipping to become far more efficient.
In ten-fifteen years I wouldn't be surprised to see robots navigating around people constantly - just like in many Star Wars movies.