Japanese hospital to add 4 robots to support nurses, clinicians on night shifts

Nagoya University Hospital in Japan plans to use robots beginning in February to ease workloads of its nurses and other staff members during night shifts, reports local media outlet The Asahi Shimbun.

Four robots will operate from 5 p.m. through 8 a.m., a time when fewer employees are scheduled to work, to deliver medicine and test samples between floors. They will travel on routes that refer to the hospital's floor plan and rely on mounted radar devices and cameras that offer a 360-degree field of vision. If a person gets in a robot's way, it is able to dodge that person or issue a message stating, "Excuse me, please let me pass."

Registered workers, like nurses and pharmacists, will use a tablet device to summon the robots and order them to a specified designation. They will move between the hospital's Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Department of Hospital Pharmacy and Department of Clinical Laboratory, each housed in a different ward, to deliver IV fluids, test samples and other materials.

Each robot is 49 inches (125 centimeters) tall and shaped like a compact refrigerator. They can travel up to 2.2 miles per hour (3.6 kilometers per hour) and carry up to 66 pounds (30 kilograms), notes The Asahi Shimbun.

The program is a joint effort between the Nagoya University and Toyota Industries Corp., an affiliate of Toyota Motor Corp., to advance its technology for self-driving cars. It will run for one year in trial form.

Note: This article was updated Jan. 4. The previous headline for this story described the robots as "robotic nurses." The headline was updated to better reflect the technology's role and capabilities, which are not equatable to those of nurses.

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