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HAL at Work in Hospitals to Cut Newborn Injury, Illness

Anyone who has seen the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” likely recalls Hal — the nearly sentient computer that turned into a nemesis that eventually had to be disconnected after it killed off members of a space ship’s crew.

Considering the connotations associated with the name it might be a little creepy for Kansas City readers to know that there is a special robot now in use at hospitals in some parts of the country. Its name is Newborn HAL. But in view of the fact that it is intended to train healthcare providers how to help newborns that may be ill or suffered injury at birth, perhaps some slack can be granted.

It is well known that difficulties in labor and during and after birth can lead to all sorts of injuries to infants. It could be something as minor as a skin rash or as serious as life-altering brain damage. If negligence on the part of caregivers is the cause of a birth injury, the right to seek compensation may exist.

The proponents of Newborn HAL say the goal of the device is to save lives. Because of that, one hospital system in the northeastern U.S. has started sending it around to facilities in several states.

On first glance, the device looks like a typical hospital treatment bed for a baby, complete with an infant. But on closer inspection, one sees that the baby is a robotic doll that can be made to move, cry, cough and groan. It can even be made to turn blue, simulating that it is suffering from oxygen deprivation.

By running the simulator through its paces, officials say nurses get training on what to look for and how to properly respond in near-real-life conditions to resuscitate a child. They say the training is important because 10 percent of all newborns wind up requiring that sort of care at some point.

Newborn HAL is clearly a far cry from the HAL in the movies. And that’s a good thing, because the last thing we would want to hear newborn Hal say is, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” when asked to do something to save a life.

Source: The Journal, “Hospitals use robot doll to be ready for anything: Christiana Care helps with simulator,” Logan B. Anderson, April 10, 2014