Making Robots More Popular

Moxi Hospital Robot Assistant by Diligent Robotics from Diligent Robotics Comms Team on Vimeo.


Nurses are aware that a lot of their work could be done by a robot. By and large, they believe that they should keep their jobs. Robots, they think, can’t manage the human relationships which are so important in nursing. What’s more, they believe that they train hard and work hard and generally deserve to keep their jobs, even if those jobs could be done by robots.

Nurses are a hard sell when it comes to automation. That makes it all the more impressive that Diligent Robotics came up with a robot nurses love. Its name is Moxi, and children have written to Diligent Robotics to communicate with it.

In a manufacturing or printing facility, a robot may be considered collaborative if it can work in the same space as human beings without killing them. So how did Moxi get so popular that people send fan letters?

First, Moxi doesn’t threaten jobs. Research has shown that an average of 30% of human tasks in most jobs can be automated. For nurses, that includes carrying samples to the lab, taking “admission buckets” to rooms after they’ve been cleaned, and carrying supplies to people when requested to do so.

The idea is that Moxi will free up time for nurses and allow them to spend more time with patients. This claim hasn’t been all that comforting for retail workers, but nurses appreciate being freed of time-consuming scut work.

In fact, Moxi can be programmed with if-then rules so that, for example, the robot carries new supplies to a room whenever a patient checks out and the room is cleaned. This reduces the cognitive load as well as the scutwork.

Another plus for Moxi is that Diligent Robotics included social intelligence. In other words, they built Moxi specially to be less scary than the average robot. Moxi only moves its “head” in ways that humans do, since spinning heads creep people out. Moxi moves its eyes in the direction it plans to move in, so that people can tell when it’s going to move. It recognizes human beings and flashes heart-shaped “eyes” as a gesture of friendliness.

The result is that within a couple of weeks, nurses in test hospitals get over their initial negative response toward Moxi and begin to help the robot learn. They even get fond of Moxi… and so do the patients.

Would this be a useful approach to industrial robots? Is social intelligence what we really need? It’s something to think about. In the meantime, when you need service or support for your Rexroth motion control, think of us first.

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