Scientists from the universities of Warwick, Cardiff, Dublin and Newcastle are among the engineers and software experts taking part in the “IWARD” project. They aim to have a three-robot prototype system ready by 2010.
By helping to keep wards cleaner, they could also cut infections by hospital superbugs such as MRSA. Each “nursebot” will consist of a mobile platform mounted with a module of sensors and equipment for different tasks.
It might be fitted with a laser thermometer which can measure body heat from a distance, or cleaning equipment to mop up spills.
the robots could provide a valuable service guiding people around the hospital. A visitor would state the name of a patient at an information terminal and then follow a robot to the correct bedside.
If the nearest robot was not sure of a patient’s location, it could seek help by communicating with others in the right area.
The robots will be fitted with sensors and cameras, allowing them to avoid collisions while travelling through wards and corridors. High-speed lanes could allow them to move from place to place quickly.
The robots would also employ face and voice recognition technology to communicate with patients and spot unauthorised visitors.