Panasonic Will Try Again To Popularize Hospital Robots

Hospitals are surprisingly "robot friendly" places. Now you know.

When hospital doctors don't have a certain drug on hand but need it, somebody may have to go down to the pharmacy to fetch it, a waste of time for increasingly overburdened doctors and medical staff. That's just one example of where a robot could step in, and work its robot magic, ferrying drugs or devices around hospitals.

And this isn't just a needle dream. Panasonic has once again started selling its Hospi hospital robots, after first developing them a decade ago. At that time, they didn't catch on, and the company only sold a total of two robots, IEEE Spectrum reported. But now, with health care costs rising and improvements in robot tech, the time is right for Hospi. There are now five Hospi's operating in Matsushita Memorial Hospital in Moriguchi, Japan, where they've reduced delivery times by over 30 percent. They each cost US $100,000, and getting the infrastructure to run them costs several hundred thousand more. But once they are up and running there are very low maintenance costs.

Robots are now comfortable dealing with semi-structured environments, as IEEE noted, and hospitals are pretty robot-friendly places: they have flat, well-lit halls and floors, contained elevators to ship them between floors, and the obstacles they contain (like moving humans) can be avoided with current sensors.

Hospi is certainly not the only hospital robot. Last year, the FDA cleared RP-VITA, a telemedicine robot that can navigate autonomously, for hospital use. GE also has a medical robot that can prep tools for surgery, amongst other tasks.

Well, don't just sit there, Hospi, fetch me a video of yourself. Here it is--Hospi appears halfway through, at 1:45: