‘Poli,’ a hospital assistant robot, frees up nurses’ time

Poli, who walks and talks on its own, has been programmed to follow simple directions for perfunctory actions like assembling packages and refilling supply bins. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
Poli, who walks and talks on its own, has been programmed to follow simple directions for perfunctory actions like assembling packages and refilling supply bins. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Poli, a lovable hospital assistant robot at Seton Medical Center in Austin, is busy making the rounds these days.

Unlike more advanced machines like the Terminator, Poli is not tasked with interacting directly with patients. Instead, the machine frees up nurses’ time by assembling and delivering supply kits, giving nurses more one-on-one time with patients. It also knows how to navigate hospital spaces without getting in the way of others.

“Nurses are spending 30 percent of their time fetching and gathering supplies, and doing what’s called in the literature ‘non-value added tasks,'” said Andrea Thomaz, CEO of Diligent Droids. “So, we are looking at really chipping away at those non-value added tasks, and seeing what can we automate such that the nurses don’t have to do that.”

Don’t let an army of hospital robots unnerve you, Poli is much more of a WALL-E type then, say, a T-1000.

The prototype for the robot was developed at UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated. 

Poli, who walks and talks on its own, has been programmed to follow simple directions for perfunctory actions like assembling packages and refilling supply bins. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
Weren’t you in WALL-E? Poli, who walks and talks on its own, has been programmed to follow simple directions for perfunctory actions like assembling packages and refilling supply bins. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)