In the not-too-distant future, you might be take a driverless car to your next doctor's appointment, then have a robot take your temperature.
That's the takeaway from research recently published by Dr. Elena De Momi and colleagues in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence) and reported by Science Daily.
De Momi, of the Politecnico di Milano (Italy), led an international team that trained a highly specialized robot to mimic natural human actions.
Researchers focused on interactions that involved many coordinated movements and even assisted surgeries.
De Momi's team first photographed a live person's hand movements to program a robot to mimic; these movements included handing instruments to a surgeon. The photos were input into the neural network of the robotic arm. Next a human operator guided the robotic arm in imitating the work performed. Although there was not a perfect overlap between the robotic and human actions, they were broadly similar.
In fact, the robotic arm performed successfully about 70 percent of the time.
Unlike their human counterparts robots do not tire and can complete an endless series of precise tasks. The scientists set out to augment, not remove human expertise from the operating room, and felt the study was a huge success. "As a roboticist, I am convinced that robotic workers and collaborators will definitely change the work market, but they won't steal job opportunities. They will just allow us to decrease workload and achieve better performances in several tasks, from medicine to industrial applications," De Momi said.
If the robotic arms prove successful, they could find their way into practitioners' offices and operating rooms. De Momi's focuses on the growing field of healthcare robotics, which is set to explode as new advances become real world applications.
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