The IWARD project, funded by the EU, aims to use the robots to identify and find patients using facial recognition software, clean wards automatically, attend patients remotely and reduce human error in administering treatments.
"IWARD mainly targets hospitals and healthcare centres to overcome the major issue of staff shortages in European healthcare," said the Community Research and Development Information Service which co-ordinates R&D funding in the EU.
"Our ageing society and economic pressures increase the patients-to-medics ratio, having an adverse effect on healthcare quality and performance.
"Not being able to attend all patients at the right time, and not keeping hospitals clean enough, also increases recovery time and cost."
The robots can be equipped with adaptable hardware components for floor cleaning and delivery of food, linen and medicine.
All mobile robots would be capable of providing patients and visitors with guidance and information within their assigned hospital.
Some may use laser thermometers for taking a patient's temperature, for example, while others will use a variety of appliances for cleaning and carrying.
The robots will also communicate with each other to decide how best to deal with a new situation.
"The idea is not only to have mobile robots, but a full system of integrated information terminals so that the hospital is full of interaction and intelligence," project leader Thomas Schlegel, from the human-computer interaction division at the Fraunhofer Institute, told The Engineer.
"Operating as a completely decentralised network means that the robots can co-ordinate things between themselves, such as deciding which one would be best equipped to deal with a spillage or to transport medicine."
Three prototypes will be built and tested in hospitals before large scale production and deployment begins.
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