The market is a forgiving place if you’re a nurse looking for work: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the number of jobs for nurses will grow 15% from 2016 to 2026. But a group of hospitals in Texas is turning to the Moxi robot to alleviate some of the need for nursing.
In her Fast Company article, author Katharine Schwab describes the “robot nurse” as something different than you’d expect.
“Moxi, which was designed and built by the Austin-based company Diligent Robotics, isn’t trying to act like a nurse. Instead, Diligent Robotics founders Andrea Thomaz and Vivian Chu have designed their robot to run the approximately 30% of tasks nurses do that don’t involve interacting with patients, like running errands around the floor, or dropping off specimens for analysis at a lab,” she says in the Fast Company article.
Moxi robot’s capabilities & features:
- a robotic arm and a set of wheels on its base
- can be preprogrammed to run errands
- is hooked into the hospital’s electronic health record system
- if a patient is discharged and their room is marked clean, Moxi will take a set of fresh supplies for a new patient to the room
- humanoid head only moves in ways human’s heads do
- “designed to be nonthreatening and transparent in its actions”
- its torso is a thin stand with a larger base, avoiding an intimidating, “trash can robot” look
All of these features add up to a reduced workload for nurses, theoretically giving them more time to devote to patient care, says Schwab.
But the robot nurse is starting to make patients happy, too
Though the Moxi robot was designed mostly for straightforward busywork, Schwab reports that the trial hospitals were surprised to see patients fascinated by their own interactions with the technology.
“Patients ended up being so infatuated with Moxi that they would ask for selfies with the robot; one child even sent Diligent Robotics a letter asking where Moxi lived.”
This lead the hospitals to program Moxi with other interaction-focused duties, done hourly, so that the robot could wander and flash heart eyes at patients and visitors.
Ultimately, Diligent Robotics wants to scale up to build human-friendly robots for other industries, but healthcare remains the primary market for now.