RP-VITA Approved for Hospital Use, SUGV Approved for Disruptor Use

The FDA puts the blessing on RP-VITA's autonomous navigation mode, and SUGV blows stuff up

2 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

RP-VITA Approved for Hospital Use, SUGV Approved for Disruptor Use

A week or so ago, the FDA (who I guess is somehow in charge of robots in hospitals) has decided that they're cool with robots like the RP-VITA telepresence platform wandering around on their own without having a nervous human in tow with one finger poised over an e-stop button. In other words, RP-VITA has been officially pronounced to be no more likely than anything else you'd find in a hospital hallway to somehow injure people. We'll share a few of iRobot's thoughts on the announcement, but first, we have a video of an iRobot 310 SUGV blowing up a bunch of stuff with a disruptor, because that's marginally more exciting.

The disruptor that's mounted on the PackBot 310 SUGV isn't quite what we were hoping for, which would have been something significantly more Klingon-y. Instead, it's what is for some reason called a 'Pigstick' disruptor, which is specifically designed to blow the stuffing out of IEDs:

Rather than firing some sort of round (like a bullet), the Pigstick disruptor uses an explosive charge to launch a high-velocity projectile of water at a target. This water "slug" does an excellent job of shredding IEDs to bits without setting them off, and while it's not intended for use against humans, I'd stay out of its way if I were you.

The good news is that if you ever do accidentally (or otherwise) get hit by a disruptor cannon from an iRobot SUGV, the FDA has decreed that RP-VITA will be available in hospitals to help you out. The specific bit that just got approved is the autonomous navigation feature, which allows doctors to remotely direct the robot to just about anywhere in a hospital without having to pay attention to it while it zips around. RP-VITA is fast, but it's also safe, and is a pro and planning out paths around people and obstacles.

iRobot is of course pretty sweet on their newest creation, so let's let them brag for just a bit:

iRobot and InTouch Health’s RP-VITA Remote Presence Robot is now the first telemedicine robot designed for remote medical consultations that combines state-of-the-art telecommunications and autonomous navigation technology.  The FDA clearance specifically allows RP-VITA to be used for active patient monitoring in pre-operative, peri-operative and post-surgical settings, including cardiovascular, neurological, prenatal, psychological and critical care assessments and examinations.

A huge step in personalized medicine and the use of autonomous robots in busy real-world settings, the RP-VITA connects patients to the foremost experts in the healthcare field.  Through use of iRobot hardware and InTouch software, the RP-VITA:

  • Can travel hospital corridors autonomously, avoiding objects and people through use of lasers, sonar, and sensors while operating completely within the cloud, connecting virtually anywhere to a patient’s electronic medical record. 
  • Offers physicians the ability to take command of any clinical, patient or care team management process remotely. 
  • Provides a new level of mobility, utility and greater ease of use by physicians and other healthcare professionals in the acute care market. 
  • Comes equipped with diagnostic devices such as electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and ultrasound and can be integrated with live patient data (such as vital signs data, lab results, imaging results, etc.)

While healthcare is a perfectly fine way to introduce this sort of platform, we're curious about where RP-VITAish robots are headed next. It's potentially the next step beyond telepresence, or at least, that's what we're hoping, where the robot can interact with its environment more effectively than just by running into stuff.


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