Researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) have carried out new research that could lead to humanoid-sensing robots that take blood pressure with a simple touch.
The research was led by SFU researcher Woo Soo Kim and published in the journal npj Flexible Electronics.
3D Printable Origami Sensors
Working with PhD student Tae-Ho Kim and a team in SFU’s Additive Manufacturing Lab, Kim and his colleagues replaced the traditional blood pressure procedure. They did this by replicating the folding mechanisms of leeches in the design of 3D printable origami sensors. These origami sensors could be integrated onto the fingertips of humanoid-sensing robots.
Kim is a professor and associate director of SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering.
“Our origami-inspired dry electrode has unique characteristics such as suction for grasping and foldability inspired by nature,” says Kim. “In keeping with nature, we saw that in addition to the complex mechanisms of a leech's adhesive feature, these creatures have an expandable posterior sucker and body, while its organs expand and shrink appropriately to maintain better adhesion to its victim. Incorporating this point of view, we found that origami can achieve similar motions and also be customized.”
Taking Blood Pressure With Fingertips
The sensors on the robot’s fingertips can be positioned on a patient’s chest, and blood pressure can be monitored by combining data from electrocardiogram (ECG) and photoplethysmogram (PPG) readings. These readings are recorded by the sensors on the fingers.
The new system then relies on predetermined algorithms to generate a patient’s systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The most impressive part of the system is that there is no need for the traditional digital sphygmomanometer.
“Robotics offers a promising method to mitigate risk and improve patient care effectiveness and quality as focused remote healthcare technology,” Kim says.
The team of researchers will now look to carry out further trials of their new system and further improve the sensors.
“Blood pressure monitoring is an essential medical diagnostic tool for many chronic diseases and overall good health,” Kim adds. “The use of sensing robots in medical healthcare systems has substantial advantages because they can assist health care workers in monitoring patient vital signs while creating a friendly environment for those patients who may need to be isolated.”
Humanoid-sensing robots would be especially useful for health care tasks in many conditions, such as those in remote regions. They could also be used to carry out these tasks where minimal personal contact is desired, which we have seen increase since the COVID-19 pandemic.