Dr. Michael R. Treat and a team at Columbia University have crafted Penelope, a robotic arm meant to replace the scrub nurse, the person in the operating room who hands the surgeon the tools of surgery.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital has agreed to test Penelope in March and if all goes well, Treat hopes to respond to the ever-widening shortage of nurses, by putting a Penelope in every hospital across the USA.
“The robot should be able to do everything a nurse can,” Dr. Treat said. “Leaving instruments inside patients still happens,” he added. The hope is that Penelope, able to keep track of tools as they come and go, will put an end to that.
Penelope can distinguish between 12 surgical tools and and will soon be able to recognize twice that many. It can respond to requests and make predictions based on a surgeon’s preferences, which are entered into its database.