AI robots to help reduce emergency room wait times

A University of Toronto professor believes artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will play a key role in streamlining healthcare delivery for patients, and hopes a new AI robot can lead the way.

The university is currently designing the “brain” of its new AI robot called Pepper. The goal for the Pepper robots is to deploy them into hospital settings to help decrease emergency wait times by automating intake, monitoring patient conditions and providing companionship.

“A lot of information needs to be given before a patient is seen by a doctor or specialist,” Goldie Nejat, MIE, university professor and director of the university’s Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics, said in a statement. “We’re trying to have robots help with that.”

Earlier this year, the university received two semi-humanoid robots that will be able to detect and respond to human voices and body language. The robots’ “brain," which is currently under construction, will be made up of algorithms that govern how they will interact with humans.

However, university researchers are still working to design the Peppers' AI, which will allow the robots to gather information, while also sensing of how a patient is feeling. The AI robots will hopefully undergo user studies in a hospital within a year, according the university. Researchers believe the Peppers, AI and robotics offer “many possibilities” for the healthcare industry.

“Our focus in the lab is improving the quality of life and promoting independence in healthy living,” Nejat said. “That’s why we are designing these robots.”