Sheffield University researchers develop robot medic to treat casualties in war zones

  • Video report by Martin Fisher

Scientists say a robotic medic designed to provide care by remote control could revolutionise the treatment of casualties in war zones.

Researchers at Sheffield University have developed a machine capable of carrying out vital triage functions like checking for a pulse and giving injections, without putting the lives of doctors at risk.

Taken from concept to prototype in nine months, the so-called "robo doc" travels on caterpillar tracks and has robotic arms which can grip instruments.

In disaster situations it will be able to send photos and videos of injuries to trained medics remotely and take observations like a patient's temperature and blood pressure.

It could also swab a patient's mouth and obtain a blood sample from the arm. 

Trained medics will be able to operate the robot using virtual reality headsets. Credit: ITV News

David King, head of digital design at the university's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, said: "It could be used in humanitarian disasters, earthquakes, situations where maybe you have got chemical contamination – essentially places where you don't want people to go, but you have got causalities that you need to help. Its range is a few kilometres potentially."

Casualties in combat are currently treated by a medical technician, similar to a paramedic. In the battlefield, the equipment and facilities available are limited before patients can be moved safely to a more advanced medical facility, a process which can take hours or days.

The robot, which has been tested on the moors above Sheffield, will enable trained medics to see a patient using a virtual reality headset and perform other tasks using technology already common in robotic surgery.

Project lead Prof Sanja Dogramadzi said: "We are working now increasingly on soft robotics and sensing and dextrous manipulation, so getting [the robot to perform] more human-like grasping, human-like control. We are getting there."

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