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So I’m tryna think of the most practical shape/design for a mobile medical robot. In my world [a high-tech space-faring society] they are used since a machine can withstand a lot more environments than a human can, and they are not susceptible to biological or chemical contamination.
Anyways, I’m not sure what the best design is, focusing on pure practicality [even if the outcome is super weird]. I know it would have to work with cases such as incompatible atmosphere exposure, vacuum exposure, unfamiliar xenobiolological or chemical contamination [including contaminants with psychological effects], and some pretty horrific injuries [there is a fair amount of unrest in this society]. Its function would basically be to both retrieve patients [bring to safety] and perform tasks capable of saving people [think CPR, emergency oxygen] as well as harmlessly neutralise people [firmly-but-gently restraining, administrating sedatives] in cases of heightened aggression or confusion. Note that it provides, in most cases, short-term and/or emergency treatment, only until a human med team can take the job instead.
It would need to cross terrain every now-and-again, but would also be kept in the confines of cramped, space-bound ships. So it’d need to be strong and have a wide range of abilities, but also compact enough to save space, either when it's not in use or when it's moving around inside of a ship.
For reference, the society is high tech but not super high tech [intelligent medical AI but only truly functioning their field of work, medicine has improved but injuries still happen and people still die, many old diseases have been eradicated but new ones have popped up].
By the way, if this is unclear please tell me what I can do to fix it, I’m super new to this site and still need to get the hang of it.

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    $\begingroup$ Form follows function. What do you intend this robot to do? What equipment does it need to preform that role? What is the tech level of your high-tech spacefairing society? Some works of fiction have regeneration pills, filled with nanobots, such a world might not even need a medical robot. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ I have edited it to include some of that info, if that helps :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to add more about the medical technology of your world and remove the information about space travel technology. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ Will do. Thanks for the feedback btw :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ Just out of curiosity, could you put some details down in comment form about your universes interstellar travel? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 4:32

4 Answers 4

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If hover tech is available: a coffin shaped robot. Alternatively the hover tech can be replaced by 8 to 12 moving legs if legged vehicles are allowed (like Baymax suggested by Wasatchwind).

The "coffin" is normally open at the bottom since most medical emergencies are lying on the ground. The robot can land over a body and close it off from the environment. After judging the condition it is then in a perfect position to lift the body a fraction and shove its bottom beneath, then transport and simultaneously offer first aid to that person. In some cases outside the robot can dig into the ground beneath and lift the body with the ground its lying on should the body not easily be moved without further injury.

The coffin can change its shape and size to match the target (up to a limit ofcourse). It has two spines with lots of equipment and manipulators to perform surgeries and support. One spine is "above" the target, the other spine can move across the coffin to perform surgeries and support from the side or back.

The coffin itself can secure its internal environment, using UV lights and other materials for sterilization and having some small tanks with gas mixtures to save the body. In some cases the robot can cool down the body to slow its processes like bloodloss or brain decay until the body is repaired, along with heating elements to warm the body up for other tasks. The coffin would also have the ability to at least attempt to control the internal environment when the coffin cannot close completely, for example if a broken spine cannot be moved.

The robot can lift one end and even move vertically using its hover tech. If it is a legged vehicle it uses nimble legs (tentacle-like legs for example) to twist and turn through tight environments in order to reach the body and retrieve it (or keep it alive until the route can be cleared). These also allow it to move in any position, vertical, horizontal, sideways etc. This can be necessary for either the medical procedures or simple comfort during the trip to the nearest vehicle capable of transporting the coffin robot.

If the tech allows the coffin is flexible enough to be retracted and stored along the spine of the robot, giving it more leeway in getting to the victims.

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    $\begingroup$ Woah. This is an interesting idea. Thankyou! $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ It's not necessarily to lift the body including the ground, it's easier to have a lot of arms (that can than each be fairly thin) that can gently lift the body without creating any tension in it. Plus lot of thin manipulators is actually easier to get under the body to pick it than fewer bigger ones. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'd only suggest that for your sales pitch to investors you rebrand "coffin" into something that inspires more confidence, like Medipod™ or Youredefinitelynotgoingtodiebox™ $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ I'm partial to the GiantSpiderCoffin™, perfect for resuscitating you after it gives you a heart attack. $\endgroup$
    – DBS
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JanHudec yes the groundscoop method is only in cases where lifting the body "normally" would not work. For example if the spine is broken ans you lie on your back, then you need an individual arm to carry each individual part of the spinal column without the broken part sagging. If the spinal column is fractured then trying to lift the body might cause leasions if you put pressure on it or let it sag. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 17:45
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There are three big principles I see in the general design of medical robots - one is reliability. If you have a robot that carries drugs around a hospital, you don't want it breaking down too much. Thus, avoiding flashy new tech with it, but more tried and true stuff that will work consistently is of big importance when a medical robot might be involved in emergency situations.

enter image description here

A second big principle I've seen in medical robots is, especially when they interact with patients more, they are made to look more approachable. When in the anxious situation of being in a hospital, especially after traumatic events, the last thing a patient needs to see is a creepy, utilitarian industrial robot.

Think Baymax:

enter image description here

I think one last consideration is safety. These robots are going to be moving through environments filled with humans, are going to be doing things like performing surgery, etc. Thus they'd have rounded corners, ways to stop them quickly if something goes wrong, etc.

Last note - you might want to disconnect the duty of rescuing people unless supplies/time is scarce. There are a bunch of other different problems disaster relief robots work with - you might look at Boston Dynamic's Spot and its well honed AI to map its environment, it's excellent ability to balance on loose surfaces, and other abilities. Further improvements for disaster relief bots would likely focus on soft robotics, on getting through tight spaces like a collapsed building.

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    $\begingroup$ Thankyou so much for this answer! It helped me get a clearer idea of what I wanted to design. Also, the duty of rescuing people is only for if there are no other humans/specifically-made-search-and-rescue bots available. Forgot to add that haha. $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ @sprout I'm glad I could help. Remember, if an answer gave you what you needed you can mark it as accepted. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 7:34
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    $\begingroup$ I like to accept later on as not to discourage other peeps from answering, but take my upvote as an acceptance :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ @sprout That's what I assumed you were doing, and is something I have done as well. Not sure if its something that is frowned upon - like so many things on these SE sites... $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ Oh no I hope not. $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 8:06
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A very good question! Of course, this comes down to a lot of different things, but generally I would look at this from a practical standpoint for our framework, and then a psychological one to give it shape.

Looking at the requirements, we're going to need a bot that is durable and energy-efficient. We're looking at the intersection of lightweight and lifelong materials, pushing me personally towards titanium or aluminum. Some metals also possess self-sterilizing properties, including bronze and silver, and so they might be considerable choices as well despite their loss in integrity. Protective suits might be needed by robots for similar reasons as humans regarding the possibility of unfamiliar chemical or biological contaminations. You might want to consider multiple, small and dextrous digits for their hands, possibly having the ability to separate into more or less as needed for the task, for the purposes of delicate medical tasks such as surgery. As for vacuum exposure, they should be pretty much fine so long as most of their delicate internals are protected and they have something to hand onto. If anything, I'd be worried about them freezing up more than exploding like fleshy things do. Psychology shouldn't be a concern for the AI; if you're programming DocBot to enough of a degree that it can suffer legitimate psychological trauma then you have done too much. The robots should not be burdened with conciousness, at least not yet and not for these purposes. Restraining patients should be easy enough seeing that they have limbs and are made of metal, they should have enough weight and exert enough force to complete this task well enough. All-terrain should be relatively easy as well. If a human can go there, a humanoid robot should be able to as well. If not, using another tool to retrieve the patient is probably the best course of action. Compactness shouldn't be an issue either. So long as you keep it vaguely human-size, you could easily just shove your bot in a locker until someone needs it.

And now the psychological standpoint. Since these robots will be interfacing with a large variety of species and cultures, it will be difficult to pinpoint a most comfortig form for our caretaker. For humans, a sleek and sterile white design with few or no exposed parts and no human-like face is likely the best option to be the most comforting. But, for a species from the desert, the white may be slightly threatening in their culture as it could suggest the dangers of the desert and the daytime sun. Some species might be unable to see colors such as red, which may causing discomfort or possibly even pain upon attempting to do so. In this, it is likely the best choice to have the same general blueprint applied to several different series of unit, specialized for the care of different species. Regions with less wealth or less racial diversity may only have a few or one of these different specialized series, whereas more established medical facilities could have several of each on standby. Overall, though, robots are usually not considered very comforting and may find their future in medicine more oriented to being first responders to emergencies and/or surgeons, rather than providing the services of more long-term caretakers. This solution is also a lot more cost-effective, and it reduces the amount of traits and flexibility required of these robots; AI's usually don't take well to being given a lot of different roles to balance to begin with.

Hope this helps!! Best of luck with your robots regardless. And welcome to worldbuilding! ^^

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  • $\begingroup$ This answer is so helpful omg!! The idea of digits being able to split/merge is so cool, and I definitely agree that a non-humanoid face is the way to go. There's so many things I love here, thankyou!! $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ @sprout I'm really glad I could help!! Hope to see more about this setting in the future [: $\endgroup$
    – INPU
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ All of my questions will most likely revolve around it so you probably will :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 6:18
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Spider Bot

If you're looking for something all-terrain, including zero gee, that folds up into a small space, I think you basically want a giant spider.

Multiple limbs allows you to grasp at several different locations, which is very useful for climbing, moving in zero gee, and traversing very rough terrain. If these limbs have manipulators, then having many lets you use a few for movement or stabilization, and use the rest for interacting with people or the environment.

Packing Up

The central body of the spider bot could be relatively small - big enough for the power source, storage of supplies, fasteners to strap a person to it for transport, etc. If you fold the legs in, you could store a spider bot in a space not much bigger than the body.

Human Interaction

A couple of answers have highlighted that medical bots should be "human friendly" in their design. I'm going to suggest that having a terrifying spider bot as a medic could really add to the world building of a world as hazardous as the one OP describes in the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I suggest that rather than a spider-bot per-say, one might design something more like an octopus. With softer materials, a more flexible aspect and conceivably the ability to squash and stretch to fit through gaps. A spider is not well suited to zero-g exactly. being primarily good at climbing, not brachiating. Apart from that, an octopus-type robot would have pretty much the same benefits as a spider, and could move like one when planet-side. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yes! I like this idea! Also it is a pretty hazardous world with a primarily industrialist, brutal aesthetic so maybe a spider-medbot would be something that fits right in :) $\endgroup$
    – sprout
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 21:01

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