Boston Dynamics Releases COVID-19 Response With Open Source Healthcare Robotics Toolkit

Boston Dynamics has released a payload and application architecture for their mobile robot in order to protect healthcare workers amid COVID-19.

In a recent blog post, the robotics firm stated — “Mobile robots play a vital role in removing people from dangerous environments. We have spent the last six weeks building and testing a payload and application architecture that would enable our robot — ‘Spot’ — to help reduce exposure of frontline healthcare workers to the novel COVID-19 virus.”

The company further stated that it has developed and tested the payload, hardware, and software for this application in order to generalise it as well as make it easy to be deployed on other mobile robotic platforms with APIs and capacity for custom payloads.

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Boston Dynamics has developed an open-source healthcare robotics toolkit which will allow mobile robots to carry out essential functions aiding in reducing the exposure of frontline healthcare staff to the deadly virus. “With the deployment of our first healthcare-focused robot, we’re open-sourcing all of our work to empower mobile robotics platforms to leverage the same hardware and software stack that we’ve developed to help frontline healthcare workers,” stated on the blog post.

Using the advanced mobile robots, the healthcare staff could reduce the risk of coming in contact with COVID-19, by reducing the number of the necessary medical staff at the scene. The robot will help in carrying out the essential function of speaking to the potentially infected patients, measuring vital signs and transporting supplies. The company has shared the toolkit on GitHub, which includes hardware and software designs for COVID-19 applications, including documentation for CAD mounts and programming scripts; making it vendor-neutral so that other mobile robotics platforms can leverage the same tech stack.

With the growing pandemic, robots technology have come handy in keeping essential frontline workers safe as well as in contributing to the fight against COVID-19. The company claimed that it had spent six weeks building and testing capabilities of this mobile robot in order to help hospitals in saving lives using its advanced mobile robot — Spot.

According to the company blog post, Boston Dynamics started receiving inquiries from hospitals, around March 2020, asking whether its robots could help to minimise healthcare staff’s exposure to COVID-19. Due to the increasing nature of the virus, hospitals are looking to using robots in order to take more of their staff out of range of the novel virus.

“Based on these conversations, as well as the global shortage of critical personal protective equipment, we have spent the past several weeks trying to understand hospital requirements better to develop a mobile robotics solution with our robot, Spot. The result is a legged robot application that can be deployed to support frontline staff responding to the pandemic in ad-hoc environments such as triage tents and parking lots,” said Boston Dynamics on the blog post.

The company hopes that these tools can enable developers to rapidly deploy robots in order to reduce risks to medical staff. Several researchers, analysts and robotics specialists have started using Spot for their healthcare workers’ benefits. Some of them are using it as a mobile telemedicine platform, where the healthcare providers are using an iPad and two-way radio attached to the robot’s back to attend and treat infected patients.

Additionally, the company is working towards advancing its robots to read and collect vital signs remotely and accurately measure body temperature, respiratory rate, pulse rate and oxygen saturation. “We have been in dialogue with researchers who use thermal camera technology to measure body temperature and calculate the respiratory rate. We’ve also applied externally-developed logic to externally-mounted RGB cameras to capture changes in blood vessel contraction to measure pulse rate. We are evaluating methods for measuring oxygen saturation,” Boston Dynamics said.

Besides, the company is also advancing Spot to do essential decontamination work. This will be done potentially with mounted UV-C lights capable of disinfecting surfaces and killing coronavirus particles at the same time. “We are still in the early stages of developing this solution but also see several existing mobile robotics providers who have implemented this technology specifically for hospitals,” Boston Dynamic stated on the blog post.

“We hope our fellow mobile robot providers, existing customers, and medical professionals will be able to use this information to leverage mobile robots to take people out of harm’s way during this critical time. Together, we can improve conditions for healthcare workers and essential personnel around the world, save lives, and fight COVID-19,” concluded Boston Dynamics.

Sejuti Das
Sejuti currently works as Associate Editor at Analytics India Magazine (AIM). Reach out at

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