Perhaps in the past we’ve held back from having robots administer sponge baths for fear that they would just be too forceful. Now there’s Cody – a robotic nurse proven to be gentle enough to bathe humans.
Presented by researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Healthcare Robotics Lab, led by Dr. Charles Kemp, Cody can be operated by a human, telling it where on the body to clean. It uses a camera and laser range finder to gather data before removing debris. Cody’s arm joints are slightly stiff, lessening the force of impact, and it is programmed to never exceed a specific threshold of pressure.
Cody was tested on paper author Chih Hung King, who had bits of blue candy stuck to his arms and legs. With a gentle caress of its washcloth-clad hand, the robot successfully cleaned the test subject’s various limbs. King’s reaction to the experiment was generally positive:
“In the beginning I felt a bit tense, but never scared. As the experiment progressed, my trust in the robot grew and my tension waned. Throughout the experiment, I suffered little to no discomfort.”
Bizarre though it may seem, the wiping of the blue candy (seen below) represents a pretty useful development in healthcare robotics. With a serious nursing shortage facing the country, any innovation that helps relieve nurses’ heavy workload will likely result in better patient care. And for bedridden patients, a robot helper could make maintaining personal hygiene less uncomfortable than receiving a sponge bath from a human.