Wellington, August 20 : Scientists in New Zealand are working on robots that can perform a host of doctors' duties like measuring blood pressure, helping patients who fall over, carrying out ward rounds, and keeping older folk company.
Auckland University has opened a new joint-venture robotics laboratory with Korean scientists for the purpose.
At the opening of the laboratory in Auckland, a robot took Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson's blood pressure.
The laboratory has been made for the purpose of adapting robot technology already developed by Korean researchers, and westernising it so that the machines could speak and recognise English.
"We need them to be interactive with speech," stuff.co.nz quoted Auckland University senior lecturer in robotics Bruce MacDonald as saying.
The researchers also plan to conduct a study to establish whether there is a preference for robots of a particular sex or age.
MacDonald said that robot users in the West might have different expectations from those in Korea.
"It's also about making the way they behave to be suitable for a Western environment. It's not just language, it's also what they say and how they say it," he said.
The laboratory will customise the existing technology developed by Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Unit to enable robots to take over more menial, repetitive tasks done by healthcare workers.
MacDonald said the New Zealanders would focus on developing a robot "platform" for Kiwi companies, so they could get into export markets for care of the elderly.
Different prototypes would be tried out with elderly people, and the first robotic devices may be available in three years.