With the world’s population aging, nurses are in high demand. Many hospitals around the globe are struggling to fill positions leaving places understaffed and many nurses overworked. Some hospitals are turning to artificial intelligence to help fill the gap. While we’ve seen “robot nurses” begin to pop up, many hospitals may not yet be comfortable with AI interacting directly with patients.
Meet Moxi. She’s not meant to replace human nurses but to act as a trusted assistant. Designed by Austin based Diligent Robotics, Moxi can take care of routine tasks like delivering supplies, dropping off specimens at the lab, or even removing soiled linen bags. According to the company, Moxi is designed to run approximately 30% of tasks that don’t involve direct interaction with patients. This can help free up nurses for more personal time with those that they are attending to.
Hospital Robot Automatically Performs Daily Tasks
Moxi is proactive and will automatically perform tasks without being asked. Nurses can program responsibilities and rules depending on the needs of the hospital. By being hooked into the digital record system, the robot knows exactly what is going on in real time.
For instance, if someone is checking out, Moxi will get an alert and can help make sure the room is ready for the next occupant. Is a report ready at the lab? Moxi will go pick it up and deliver it to the designated station.
“We’re helping them augment their staff. It’s hard to argue that we’re taking anyone’s job. Everyone is trying to make the nurses they have go further, ” said CEO Andrea Thomaz who co-founded the company Vivian Chu in 2016.
Moxi Uses Adjustable Arm and Gripper
As far as looks go, Moxi is a cross between a cartoony kids robot and a Star Wars droid. It rolls around on a sturdy base while using an adjustable arm and gripper to perform tasks. Onboard sensors and cameras help the robot navigate a busy hospital and allow it to avoid anyone that may get in its way. Moxi can respond to voice commands along with being controlled by a touch screen.
“Our challenge was to find a balance between an arm that was functional enough to pick up enough things to be useful in the hospital but have a small enough form factor so it’s not too bulky and scary,” said Thomaz.
While not really a conversational robot, Moxi will say things like “Hello There” as it passes people in the hallway. When being addressed by a nurse, the robot will move its head and look in that person’s direction. To show a bit of emotion, it’s LED eyes can turn into things like heart emoji eyes or rainbows.
Moxi Will Officially Launch Later This Year
Before creating Moxi, Diligent Robotics shadowed real nurses and physicians for over 150 hours to get a feel of what exactly would benefit them. After building the robot and further intense testing, the company conducted trials at several hospitals in Texas in 2018 and early 2019.
During trials, Moxi endeared herself to patients and nurses alike. The staff found the robot quite helpful and after a few weeks it just seemed like a “normal” part of the hospital. Patients were also amused often requesting to take selfies with Moxi.
With trials complete, Diligent Robotics is planning to officially launch Moxi at a few local hospitals later this year. The company is also looking to expand its robots into other industries beyond healthcare.
“Our real vision is bringing robots to markets that are working side by side with people, that are changing the future of work. It’s going to enable people to do so much more.” Thomaz says.