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Medicine AI Robotics

Would You Let a Robot Stick You With a Needle? 209 209

An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum has a story about a robot that uses infra red and ultrasound to image veins, picks the one with best bloodflow, and then sticks a needle in. (video included). Veebot started as an undergrad project and the creators are aiming for better performance than a human phlebotimist before going for clinical trials. Robodracula anyone?"
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Would You Let a Robot Stick You With a Needle?

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  • Why yes, I would. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 27, 2013 @02:27AM (#44397537)

    I'll always take a robot over a human when my safety is in question. I want a human involved, but predictable error that can be controlled is far preferable to unknowable error modes of humans.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @02:34AM (#44397559) Journal

    predictable error that can be controlled is far preferable to unknowable error modes of humans.

    This is exactly backwards....a human will be aware enough to never jab the needle all the way through your arm. If there's a bug, the computer will do that happily and quickly.

    Therac-25 is an example of the dangers of improperly tested computers with lethal equipment.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Saturday July 27, 2013 @02:57AM (#44397603) Journal

    They used to jab the tip of your finger. That's just about the most sensitive, painful place they could choose to get a blood sample. Fingertips have the greatest concentration of nerves. Being medical professionals, they of all people should know that. So why couldn't they prick some other spot, like the forearm? It really seemed like they were at best indifferent to causing their patients unnecessary pain. At worst, I wondered if some of them were sadists.

    Some years ago, a change in this procedure came along. Now, they prick the side of the finger, not the tip. Much, much less painful.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday July 27, 2013 @04:53AM (#44397899)
    You'd have to pick a very special case - like a mentally impaired, combative patient for example. But then that's why staff with brains exist. You have to know who can get the machine, and who can't.
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @09:15AM (#44398797)

    And the exact same thing could happen to any other completely mechanical device. Unless you wrote the software or were closely involved with the development process, you have no fucking clue as an end user of medical devices if its actually safe to use.

    Yes, its an example of how to do it wrong, but you CAN NOT ignore the fact that IT HAPPENED.

    The example is mentioned not to show how it can be done wrong, but that even in the highly regulated medical industry, where lives are ALWAYS on the line, it slipped right through with a completely improper design and inadequate testing, where as even a 15 year old would be more reliable at noticing the missing filter when reconfiguring the machine more often than the T-25 failed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 27, 2013 @09:56AM (#44398993)

    How many doctors have killed people? You can't ignore those either.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday July 27, 2013 @11:11AM (#44399515)

    And the exact same thing could happen to any other completely mechanical device.

    You design the mechanism so that it is physically impossible for the software to do something dangerous. In the case of Therac-25, there should have been a mechanical interlock that cut power to the radiator when the shield was not in place. In the case of the needle sticking robot, you use an actuator with a stroke of, say, 5mm. Then there there is no way it could "jab through your arm". You also use a weak actuator, that doesn't have enough physical strength to push into bone, even when given full power. You put a spring-loaded (not software controlled) sheath over the needle, so the needle is never exposed unless it is pressed against skin. You design the hardware assuming the software is malicious. You design away any way you can think of for the software to do harm.

    Then you design the software assuming the all the mechanical interlocks have failed, and use sensors to double check everything.

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