If you ever watched The Jetsons, you’ll remember Rosie, the robot maid with a very human personality. Back then, the idea of robots performing sophisticated human tasks was just a dream about the future—but now it’s becoming more common.
A few hospitals in Texas have started using Moxi, a robot nurse, to help with the workload. But unlike the autonomous Rosie who managed the Jetsons’ home, Moxi works side by side with her human coworkers.
Built by an Austin-based tech firm called Diligent Robotics, Moxi looks a bit like the workstations that nurses wheel around—except with a long robotic arm and a somewhat endearing, vaguely humanoid head with wide LED eyes.
Moxi moves around the floor running basic errands like dropping samples off at the lab. Her presence is not about replacing the human nurses, but making their workday more efficient by freeing them from mundane task.
You might expect people to be unnerved by the presence of Moxi. But according to Andrea Thomaz, one of the founders of Diligent Robotics, Moxi has actually been a huge hit. The robot has even been programmed to take a social lap around the floor between tasks in order to get face to face time with her coworkers.
Thomaz tells Fast Company that during Moxi’s trial run, “Some nurses were like, ‘It creeps me out a little, I don’t like robots, I’m not into AI,’” Thomaz says. “But by the end they [were] like, ‘Hey Moxi, hey girl, how’s it going?’ It was dramatic, in a matter of two to three weeks.”
Patients have reportedly asked to take selfies with Moxi, and one young patient wanted to write a letter to Moxi and find out where it lived. Moxi even has her own Instagram account, run by the Diligent Robotics team, where Moxi is seen meeting some of the hospital’s other robotic staff members—like Turbo, the cleaning robot.
Parentology reached out to Texas Health for first-hand staff accounts of working with Moxi. The hospital did not respond to interview requests.
However, not every hospital worker is optimistic about the idea of robotic nurses or their ability to take care of patients with the same level of humanoid warmth.
“I think it would be really strange to be working with a robot nurse,” Shira Saul, a nurse at a hospital in Baltimore, MD told Parentology. “Nursing is supposed to be about giving humanity to medicine, so I don’t think a robot could accomplish that.” She further speculated on how patients, in particular children, might react. “I don’t think patients would like having a robot nurse or a tech simply because they need a human touch and compassion. I’m not sure how kids would react, but I don’t think they would like it either. They really need a lot of support from a human being.”
She was, however, more optimistic about the idea of a robot assistant. “It would probably make my job easier, because they would do their job well and professionally, and I wouldn’t have to tell them twice to do something.”
Robots are increasingly more present in our lives. Kids in rural areas can now get a long-distance education with the help of a robot. Sick children who can’t get out to socialize can connect to their friends with a little AI assistance. While many people are concerned about a looming AI takeover threatening their jobs, one area where the demand for workers still outpaces the labor supply is nursing.
Saul, however, didn’t see that takeover as a possibility. “I don’t think it would ever happen,” she says. “It just doesn’t make sense.”