Saturday, 2 July 2005

Robot Runs Amok!

Refuses to leave room when asked! Oh well, it was designed to fail-safe. If this is the worst a medical therapy robot can do when it goes completely haywire, someone has done some good design work.

From the San Francisco Examiner :
Waldo the pill-dispensing robot apparently went berserk this past week at UCSF Medical Center, sending a doctor and patient running for cover.

Whacked-out Waldo is one of three battery-operated, rolling robots that dispense pills at the hospital. The other two are named Elvis and Lisa Marie.

All three are about the size of a large TV and are programmed to roam from floor to floor, distributing medications to nursing stations.

At the end of their rounds, the robots are supposed to roll into the basement pharmacy for refills.

But Tuesday, Waldo shot past the pharmacy and barged uninvited into the examination room in the radiation oncology department, where -- according to an anonymous caller -- a doctor was examining a cancer patient.

According to the caller, Waldo wouldn't leave, and the startled doctor and patient felt obliged to flee the room.

UCSF spokeswoman Carol Hyman said she didn't know anything about any doctor and patient having to beat feet -- but confirmed that the wandering Waldo did wind up in an examination room.

"This is the first time anything like this has happened," Hyman said. "Our technology folks are going to have to take a look."
Anyone can make a system that, when things are going as expected, will work and work well. But it takes art as well as science to make something that fails gracefully.

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