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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read