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Short Circuit: MD Anderson Robots Provide Safety in the 21st Century Part II

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By John Chattaway, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Tessfinal.jpgPart II of Monday's post- Short Circuit: MD Anderson Robots Provide Safety in the 21st Century

"Autobots, roll out!"... and into the next lab


"I am a robot."

If you've traveled Floor 4 of the Main Building, you may have heard those words spoken by "Tess," the Swisslog SpeciMinder used by Laboratory Medicine to transport specimen batches between labs.

The robot is on loan from Swisslog while Pathology and Laboratory Medicine determines if it's a technology we want to invest in.

Laboratory Medicine technicians have a button or "bell" they push to call Tess. The robot has a pre-programmed map of our facility that it uses, along with external sensors, to find its way to the technician. Once Tess arrives, the technician loads specimen batches into it and tells it where to go.

Once Tess delivers the specimens to the required destination, if that destination has nothing to send, Tess returns to a docking station in the central specimen processing area.

"Tess minimizes the need for manual transport of specimen batches between labs. This enables our lab employees to stay focused on high value and patient-oriented work," says Lila Pulido, director, Pathology/Laboratory Medicine Operations. "It's also fun because you can program what Tess can say. I once heard it say, 'Sorry, I haven't had my morning coffee,' when it bumped into a wall."

Don't be fooled by Tess's simple, R2-D2-like appearance. The robot can hold up to 150 tubes of blood and a bag of microbiology specimens, or up to 50 pounds of cargo.

At three feet tall and 100 pounds, Tess rolls at normal human walking speeds. Unfortunately, Tess still needs help opening doors and is contained to the Floor 4 labs while it's being tested. But if MD Anderson decides to pursue this technology in the future, don't be shocked to find Tess on the elevator with you, asking you to push the button for another floor.

These are the droids you're looking for
While our robots don't travel through time or space, or morph into cars, they help make our operations more efficient.

So don't go poking the nearest doctor, checking for mechanical parts. We don't have androids working in the hospital ... yet.

Resources
The Robots of MD Anderson (video)

Related story
Short Circuit: MD Anderson Robots Provide Safety in the 21st Century

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