January 25, 2013
You may soon see Rosie the Robot strolling the halls of more hospitals now that iRobot's remote presence robot has been given official FDA clearance. The Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant, or RP-VITA for short, is the first autonomous navigation remote presence robot to receive FDA clearance for use in hospitals.
The RP-VITA was made by iRobot, makers of the Roomba vacuum cleaner robot, in conjunction with InTouch Health, a provider of telemedicine solutions. We first told you about the medical robot this past summer when it started trial rounds in several hospitals.
The robot is designed to allow medical specialists to communicate remotely with patients. Using an iPad interface and sensors to navigate, the doctor can maneuver the hospital corridors virtually by tapping on locations he or she wants the robot to go to.
This is a step-up from InTouch's earlier medical robot, the RP-7, which is in use in over 600 hospitals across the country. That one requires the use of a joystick to operate. With RP-VITA, the doctor controls the robot's movements using an iPad. Yulun Wang, chairman and CEO of InTouch Health, tells Mashable the doctor on the other end can split the screen so the top half is a video image as seen through the robot, and the bottom half can be a map. Tap on a location on the map and the robot navigates there.
Wang tells us the robot has an "environmental awareness, so it can see what's going on around it and act accordingly."
"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.
As companies work to make health care more affordable and accessible, we can expect to see a push towards adoption of virtual health care and telepresence. We saw many instances of this at the recent International CES, where a virtual medical kiosk was among the telehealth items on display.
Wang agrees, saying, "as adoption grows, [telepresence] can become pervasive in health care delivery."
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