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Communications of the ACM

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Healthcare Robotics

social-robotic system

Credit: YOUSE

The use of robots in healthcare represents an exciting opportunity to help a large number of people. Robots can be used to enable people with cognitive, sensory, and motor impairments, help people who are ill or injured, support caregivers, and aid the clinical workforce. This article highlights several recent advancements on these fronts, and discusses their impact on stakeholders. It also outlines several key technological, logistical, and design challenges faced in healthcare robot adoption, and suggests possible avenues for overcoming them.

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Key Insights


Robots are "physically embodied systems capable of enacting physical change in the world." They enact this change with effectors, which can move the robot (locomotion), or objects in the environment (manipulation). Robots typically use sensor data to make decisions. They can vary in their degree of autonomy, from fully autonomous to fully teleoperated, though most modern system have mixed initiative, or shared autonomy. More broadly, robotics technology includes affiliated systems, such as related sensors, algorithms for processing data, and so on.28


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