How Robots Are Training Doctors and Students

It is a well-known fact that this is the age of technological advancement. Not only are machines being created which are able to do more complex tasks, but artificial intelligence (AI) is continually being improved and reaching nearly unbelievable levels.

Sometimes we do not even realize just how far AI has come, but it effects our life daily. For example, think of automated phone systems. You can now speak in simple phrases such as “yes,” “no,” or listing out a number and the automated system understands you. This is just one of the smallest, simplest, yet most widely used ways AI is affecting our life.

An incredible breakthrough in artificial intelligence is now changing the way medical professionals are trained. While the new robot (we’re going to discuss specifics in a moment) is incredible, it’s also undeniably a little frightening – but so are all new things.

Meet Pediatric Hal

Pediatric Hal is an artificial intelligence robot with amazing, incredibly lifelike capabilities. He was made to look like a five-year-old male patient by Gaumard Scientific. Wondering just how lifelike he really is? Pediatric Hal can, in addition to many other things, do the following:

  • Imitate rapid breathing
  • Look scared, with wide eyes that dart around the room
  • Say “ow” when he is pricked with a needle
  • Answer basic questions relevant to what a normal human would be able to, aged five
  • Cry for his mom and dad
  • Mimic the symptoms of numerous illnesses, including cardiac arrest and arrythmia
  • Urinate on himself when frightened
  • Track a finger with his eyes upon request

As you can see, there is no wonder why pediatric Hal is being called “The World’s Most Advanced Pediatric Patient Simulator.”

Although initial prototypes were hyper-realistic, the creators did pull back just slightly. During test runs, the company decided there was such a thing as “too realistic” and held back from allowing the fake child bleed to death on the operating table.

Why A Lifelike Robot?

Many wonder why a lifelike robot is necessary in medical training. But the idea behind this invention is actually quite simple: it offers medical students the ability to practice working under pressure in a hands-on environment.

Once these pre-med and medical school students become doctors there is no room for error, because the cost of such is human life. While practicing on Pediatric Hal, however, errors are less serious and can be learned from before the price becomes so high.

The procedures which can be practiced on this robot are wide-ranging. They include everything from using a defibrillator, giving basic resuscitation (such as mouth-to-mouth), inserting tracheal tubes, or even performing complex surgical procedures.

In the past these things have been practiced on dummies. This is fine for learning the basic movements for certain procedures but lacked the “working under pressure” aspect that is so vital. Since Pediatric Hal responds in the way a human child might, those studying to become doctors are given a realistic taste of what they may face after graduation.

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