LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The robotics lab at the University of Louisville is a lot like a toy shop.
“You don’t feel like you’re working with them, more like you’re playing around with robots,” said Sumit Das, a researcher at the lab.
For him, it’s a dream come true.
“I was always tinkering with things and making new stuff and my parents always encouraging me to do new stuff and even if I failed, they would be like, ‘it’s ok, move on to the next project.’ So, it has always been a project after project after project,” said Das.
But here’s the thing. He’s not playing around.
Sumit and PhD student Shamsudeen Abubakar, who goes by Abu, are part of a research team building a robot to help people heal.
“So, in my estimate, about 5 to 10 years, hopefully we’ll see them be able to work alongside nurses,” said Das.
This is ARNA—the Adaptive Nursing Robot Assistant. ARNA is built to help nurses do their job.
“So you push on this like a walker that elderly people use,” said Abubakar
The robot can do a few things: monitor a patients vital signs, pick things up and bring them to a patient, and help them walk down a hallway.
“This robot really has the potential to diminish the incident of patient falls,” said Cindi Logsdon, a nursing profesor at the University of Louisville.
Patient falls are a big deal, and Logsdon knows. She’s a consultant on the project and was the Associate Chief of Nursing at the University of Louisville Hospital for almost 10 years.
“A big reason that patients fall when they’re in hospitals is they try and get out of bed by themselves, or they try and reach something that they can’t reach, or they depend on the darn bedside table,” said Logsdon.
According to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, between 700,000 and 1 million patients fall in hospitals each year.
Everyone involved in the project is hoping the robot will make a big difference in the U.S. and abroad.
“I’m from Nigeria which is a developing country and I think robotics offers an avenue to kind of, you know, not jump the steps in development but kind of close the gap,” said Abubakar.
“If there are any of the basic sort of skills that a robot could take over in collaboration with the nurses, in partnership with a nurse, it frees up the nurse for more higher level activities,” said Logsdon.
“It’s about how to assist them in doing tasks that can eat their time up,” said Das.
I know what you’re thinking. Sure these robots may help us heal in the hospital, but what’s to stop them from becoming self-aware and destroying the human race?
“I think that’s limited to fiction. I don’t think that’s going to be a reality as it’s shown in Hollywood. I wouldn’t be worried about that,” said Das.