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Dec 21, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Tug – the little robot nurse designed to help healthcare professionals

Autonomous robot Tug is already present in various hospitals and even a few hotels, and has been designed to help employees with simple tasks. For example, the machine can move around corridors and lifts to bring medicine and food to patients.


US company Aethon has created a robot called Tug, designed to help healthcare personnel in hospitals. The autonomous machine is already whirring around the corridors of numerous establishments around the world, where it transports and distributes meals and medicines to patients. The robotic assistant not only saves doctors and nurses time by freeing them of certain tasks, but also has the advantage of almost never getting in the way of the staff.


Laser-based guidance system 


According to Wired website, Tug is equipped with the lidar autonomous movement and guidance system, similar to the one fitted on the driverless vehicles designed by Google and Uber. The robot, which is like a large box moving around on little wheels, aims lasers all around itself to obtain information on its immediate environment, which it then compares with the floor plan of the hospital which has been entered into its memory. It thus knows which way to go to get from A to B, even if it has to take the lift. The machine can also avoid and go around obstacles, or come to an immediate halt to avoid a collision.


Human intervention sometimes necessary


This is the case most of the time, but the technology required to power Tug is still in its infancy, and there are occasions when a human is required to unblock the robot after it has got itself into a situation it cannot get out of. If no-one takes pity on the poor machine, there is however another way to get it out of trouble. 

This solution is provided by Aethon from its headquarters in Pittsburgh. Regardless of where they may be operating throughout the world, each version of Tug is monitored remotely by the company’s technicians – a functionality which enables the robot to move around more freely, and also provides more peace of mind for those who work alongside it on a daily basis, since there is still a great of mistrust surrounding robots.


Human mistrust the greatest obstacle?


This reticence is also one of the main obstacles which the creators of robots like Tug and other autonomous machines in the near future will have to overcome as they look to conquer the hotel market. For the machines to work to their full potential, the humans they operate alongside will have to learn to adapt to robots, who themselves have been programmed to adapt to human behaviour.


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