Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, one of the most successful robot companies, recently sat down with Wired.co.uk to discuss all things robots. One part of their conversation focused on iRobot’s health care division. Although it has been known for some time the focus of the health care division is to deliver geriatric care – Angle went on to discuss how he feels robots could lead to the resurgence of the house call by producing robots that are designed to help health care professionals practice medicine.
Wired.co.uk: iRobot recently announced a new healthcare division. What’s your vision for medical robots?
My goal is quite simple: to extend the amount of time you can live independently at home. You need to be able to maintain your home. That completely fits with what we’re already doing. Roomba is the most successful healthcare robot ever created. Older people are among the most rabid purchasers of Roomba. We get stories about people’s lives being changed by their Roomba. The floor washing robot Scooba is the same — that’s a manually intensive thing that older people struggle to do.
There are a lot of interactions with people themselves that need to happen. We found with Packbot [iRobot’s military robot] that some prototypes have shown it’s possible to get a remote person to drive a robot around. There are already telepresence robots out on the market. That’s going to be part of the solution, all of a sudden doctors and nurses, depending on the robot and the accessories on it, can start to make house calls again. Back in the 1800s doctors made house calls all the time but they had to be generalists and the end of the house call was the arrival of equipment that was too heavy to lug around and a sudden need for specialists. Healthcare got more and more centralised. With telepresence and miniaturisation of sensors we can turn that inside out and bring most health care to your own home.”
If you want more information on the pictured “bloodbot” – here is a link to the Imperial College of London.