Hanson Robotics became world-famous for lifelike droids, most notably the Sophia robot which has been made an honorary citizen of Saudi Arabia.

But what, if anything could humanoid robots do for healthcare? We invited a spokesperson for Hanson Robotics to answer questions and allow you readers to decide.

Hanson Robotics fact-file

Established by: David Hanson

Founded: 2003

Headquarters: Hong Kong

AI Med: Why should healthcare providers use Hanson’s robotics to treat patients? Do you have examples?  

Team Hanson Robotics: Our robots have the clear advantage of creating bonds, like no other.  It comes from our robots’ abilities to communicate verbally and non-verbally, to create positive emotional states and ultimately trusted relationships with people. For example, as part of the LovingAi research, the Sophia robot has led a series of guided meditation trials and we have found that human participants of these trials demonstrated lowered heart rates and a strong sense of loving and kindness after these sessions.

AI MED: Where could the Sophia robot be applied to healthcare settings?

THR: Our robot can perform many roles in a healthcare setting.  They will serve well in roles that require the building of rapport and trust with people.

We foresee our robots evolving into nurses’ or doctors’ assistants. In these roles, they can save nurses’ time by such simple tasks as answering calls for help, identifying the patients’ needs and reacting appropriately to those needs. 

They will be taking and recording patients’ vital signs, temperature, and blood pressure. Their observational skills are another one of their strengths, they can observe changes in a patient’s condition or behavior and record and notify staff when warranted. They can also assist doctors with their ability to scribe and maintain those accurate records on the hospital’s database. 

AI MED: How do Hanson’s robotics see the ethical considerations of making lifelike robots which patients may bond with or be scared by?

THR: There are controversies in whether we should build humanlike robots. Hanson Robotics believe that if we do not humanize our intelligent machines, then they may eventually be dangerous. To be safe when they become increasingly autonomous, machines must attain a deep understanding and compassion towards people. It is not too early to prepare for this eventuality. They must appreciate our values, be our friends, and express their feelings in ways that we can understand.

AI MED:  What advice would you give to hospitals who are struggling to find investment/willingness to implement robotics?

THR: We would suggest hospitals to view robotics as a technology investment, similar to investing in critical hospital equipment. In certain applications, robotics can be an immediate cost reduction enabler, supporting a shift to less costly outpatient and ambulatory services. Some techniques, such as robotically assisted minimally invasive surgical procedures, have been shown to reduce the length of hospital stays. Robotic assistive technology that allows disabled individuals to stay in their homes and live more independently, provides another example.

AI MED: What do you see as the future of robotics in healthcare?

THR: We are expecting major advances in natural language processing, computer vision, and sensory capabilities of robots. Imagine a future where each individual has access to a personalized robot care provider. The possibilities of delivering preventive and remedial health services would be endless. The caretaker of the future will be able to deliver a personalized, dynamically adjusted healthcare program that changes based on what it senses you need at that moment.

This interview originally appeared in AIMed Magazine issue 05, a Deep Dive on Robotic Technology & Virtual Assistants available to read here.