Dr. Spot: An Agile Mobile Robot That Could Help Remotely Evaluate COVID-19 Patients

Spot robot
Photo : Boston Dynamics on YouTube

Have you already met Dr. Spot? It is a healthcare-focused robot for remote evaluation of COVID-19 patients.

Spot robots have been around for quite some time now. Their early users have found a variety of applications. Spot robots, for example, were used to document construction and detect water leaks. They were deployed to remote places and hazardous environments. Spot robots can also be configured to dance and do tricks for entertainment purposes.

The birth of Dr. Spot

The introduction of Spot robots could not be more timely. The pandemic underscored the need to develop ways to reduce the spread of the virus. The risks are even greater for health workers. One way to reduce their exposure to the virus is through telemedicine.

Thus, Boston Dynamics introduced Dr. Spot. This reconfigured robot was designed for contactless patient evaluation. A study about this robot was conducted in cooperation with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the study, Dr. Spot was deployed in a hospital setting. It was set out to help doctors interview patients suspected of having mild COVID-19. It thereby helped limit hospital staff exposure to the virus. Moreover, it does not need to wear a gown or a mask. And so, it can help conserve the supply of PPE as well.

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The idea to develop Dr. Spot came in early March 2020. That was when Boston Dynamics received inquiries from hospitals about the possible use of the robot to minimize staff exposure to COVID-19. They, thus, introduced Dr. Spot. The reconfigured robot can go to places that other robots and drones can't go.

Dr. Spot was fitted with an iPad and a two-way radio. The robot is teleoperated. It allowed doctors to speak and manage patients remotely. That enabled healthcare providers to conduct videoconference with COVID-19 patients.

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What else can Dr. Spot do?

Dr. Spot further assisted hospital staff in triaging patients. In the study, the robot was fitted with devices to allow it to measure vital signs remotely. Such vital signs include body temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation.

Dr. Spot may also be used for decontamination in the future. The robot developers are looking into fitting the robot with UV-C light or other devices to do the job. Spot robots will use this device to disinfect surfaces in hospital tents or metro stations.

Their published report can be read at TechRxiv.

About Spot Robot

Boston Dynamics commercially released the robot on June 16, 2020. Spot is an agile robot that can climb stairs and tackle rough terrain. It can perform an array of tasks. Its platform is designed to be reconfigurable to customize the robot's use.

These robots were previously available for short-term lease. Spot robots were deployed in power generation facilities, decommissioned nuclear sites, research laboratories, other environments.

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