It’s #WatchOutForTheRobots Wednesday!

“Watch out for the robots” is just a phrase we use whenever we see a crazy technology that clearly has the potential to be pretty darn scary if it ever were to go awry. No, no, this isn’t because we have a pessimistic view of the future (though phronesis in all technological developments / applications is important), we just love finding/sharing this stuff.

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You might not expect one of the latest breakthroughs in robotic technology to be a smart derriere, but Dr. Benjamin Lok of the University of Florida, and Dr. Carla Pugh, of the University of Wisconsin, have designed just that, and if you’re a man, this electronic posterior may one day save your life.

The robotic butt is connected to a video screen featuring a virtual man who is bent over an examination table and goes by the name of “Patrick.” The real time device is designed to teach the next generation of doctors how to give a prostate exam.

The life-like mannequin has built in prostate sensors that allow the computer software to assess the area the student is examining, measure how much pressure is being applied and evaluate the thoroughness of the exam. As well as the physical components of the prostate exam, Patrick is also equipped to help budding physicians improve their bedside manner by talking about his experience; he is even able to measure eye contact. These attributes enable medical students to familiarize themselves with the intimate exam before ever having to interact with a live patient.

Lok, Pugh and their research group spent four years developing the “mixed reality” simulator. The virtual patient is currently under examination at Drexel University in Philadelphia and at the University of Florida, and Lok is optimistic that this will lead to the development of similar devices to aid other types of sensitive examinations such as breast exams (more info in this recent Huffington Post article).

Image credit: Huffington Post

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