Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
This robotic arm, built in SFU’s Surrey campus, can measure heart rate, breathing, temperature and muscle movements. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)This robotic arm, built in SFU’s Surrey campus, can measure heart rate, breathing, temperature and muscle movements. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)

A B.C. professor would like to see a robot take your vitals when you visit a doctor in the somewhat near future.

Dr. Woo Soo Kim, associate professor of mechatronic systems engineering at Simon Fraser University, has developed health care robots that can measure heart rate, respiration rate, temperature and oxygen levels. The oxygen level measurement in particular could be used to monitor severe COVID-19 patients.

He hopes the sensor robots can support doctors and nurses, and is currently using two prototypes to collaborate with a team of Vancouver Coastal Health researchers on how a technology like this could be applied in practice.

There’s a lot to be worked out — including how comfortable will patients be receiving care from a robot – but Kim hopes to have sensing robots in health care in five to 10 years. He imagines a full complement of medical care robots, including passive bots that take vitals, companion bots that would hang out with patients to regularly monitor vitals so people don’t need to wear an uncomfortable device, and even receptionist bots.

We might already be warming up to machine-based medical care, as a recent report indicated most British Columbians now prefer virtual meetings with their doctors for routine check ups.

READ MORE: Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

His lab, Additive Manufacturing in SFU’s Surrey campus, has been working on advanced 3D printing, wearable technology and sensing robots since he arrived in 2010, and narrowed their focus health care uses in 2018. He works with six to seven students and interns.

Now they have two working prototypes to take to doctors and nurses. One is an arm, completely made in the lab with 3D printed origami. The second machine is a shiny, white humanoid that Kim’s lab has added on their own hand with highly specialized electron sensors.

The origami design was chosen not just because it’s cool. His lab has spent years testing various architectural solids with 3D printing, and found that “3D origami structures have naturally less fatigue characteristics with re-configurable structures. So, it’s good if they are used for bending structures such as our fingers,” Kim said.

Funding has been partially provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the lab is applying for more grants to expand development.

The first stage of robotic health care is passive, with the machines gathering information and sharing results with human health care professionals, but Kim envisions future machines that could be more involved.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


BC HealthScience

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

These two city-owned houses on Railway Avenue in the Railtown district will be sold. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
City of Nelson will sell two derelict houses in Railtown

Purchasers will be responsible for demolition and slope stability issues

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read