This week, the University Board approved an application for the purchase of a human-like robot for use in research and education at the University of Agder.
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“We are very pleased with this decision by the University Board. It gives a good basis for a stronger collaboration between the technology environment and the health environment at the university”, says Anders Johan Wickstrøm Andersen, dean of the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences.
The application for a human-like robot was submitted by the Faculty of Engineering and Science and the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences. The matter was discussed by the University Board on Wednesday 13 May. The faculties applied for NOK 2,125 million for a so-called anthropomorphic cobot, a human-like robot that can collaborate with humans and other robots.
The cobot will be used at I4Health, the centre for innovation and service development within healthcare at UiA's campus in Grimstad. The plan is for such human-like robots to perform tasks in the health and care sector among other things. One such cobot was demonstrated when I4Health opened in August 2019.
UiA is one of the few universities in Norway that has municipal health services located on campus. The cobot will be important in the collaboration between the faculties and the municipality of Grimstad, which is a central partner for I4Health.
“The cobot completes the laboratories in the I4Health building, for students, researchers and business and industry. It shows our continued focus on eHealth and puts UiA on the map when it comes to robot assisted health care”, says Wickstrøm Andersen.
Students at both faculties will be introduced to the cobot and cobot technology. The goal now is to order the robot as soon as possible and have it ready for teaching and research by autumn. According to Wickstrøm Andersen, the cobot will strengthen the quality of nursing education and nursing.
“He wants to give the students practical experience with cobots and train them in how this type of technology can improve municipal health services”, says Wickstrøm Andersen.
The current coronavirus situation makes the cobot technology especially relevant. Human-like robots can go close to the patient and provide physical assistance without the risk of infection.
“A robot in every home at this price level is unattainable for the time being, but we will continue our research on the technology and the interaction between robots and patients, as well as teaching. The use of cobots in the field of health is still pioneering work, but such a cobot will help provide future-oriented education and research – a unique offer in Norway”, says Wickstrøm Andersen.