Welcome Our New Robotic Overlords!

Robots?  Tele-presence?  Robotic consultations?

Robot at the Museum of Science and Technology

Image via Wikipedia

Yep, it’s coming.

Wait,  strike that, it’s already here.  Our friends over the New York Times published this great article last week about the incursion of robots into our already crowded lives and workplaces.  Obviously I’ve been asleep at the keyboard and didn’t notice this until this weekend.  Some call it a Borg takeover, the evolution of SkyNet or invasion of the Roomba, but the reality is that we can use the technology rather than letting the technology use us.  Take for example the first couple paragraphs of the story:

SACRAMENTO — Dr. Alan Shatzel’s pager beeped at 9 on a Saturday morning. A man had suffered a stroke, and someone had to decide, quickly, whether to give him an anticlotting drug that could mean the difference between life and death.

Dr. Shatzel, a neurologist, hustled not to the emergency room where the patient lay — 260 miles away, in Bakersfield — but to a darkened room at a hospital here. He took a seat in front of the latest tools of his trade: computer monitors, a keyboard and a joystick that control his assistant on the scene — a robot on wheels.

He guided the roughly five-foot-tall machine, which has a large monitor as its “head,” into the patient’s room in Bakersfield. Dr. Shatzel’s face appeared on screen, and his voice issued from a speaker.

Dr. Shatzel acknowledged the nurse and introduced himself to the patient’s grandson, explaining that he would question the patient to determine whether he was a candidate for the drug. The robot’s stereophonic hearing conveyed the answers. Using the hypersensitive camera on the monitor, Dr. Shatzel zoomed in and out and swung the display left and right, much as if he were turning his head to look around the room.

Is it perfect?  Hell no.  Is it a step in the right direction?  Probably.

We already have a lack of doctors in general, and a true dearth of specialists in rural areas, so this is a solution of a sorts.  Does this replace the doc?  No, not at all.  It is another tool they can use to make informed decisions.  Having another head in the game means twice the chance of getting the right idea first.  Sure it will be weird to wheel a robot in to see a patient, but it’s really no different than an EKG or X-ray machine, except it has a doc “inside”.  Eventually it will become commonplace, just like the other tools of our trade.

I can only imagine the reactions that will happen when our “altered” population gets a robotic consultation…

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