Researchers at Cornell University have created the first robotic pet simulation centre, giving veterinary students hands-on learning experience. Sharon Reich has more.
It's been a ruff day for this dog. He's had a tube inserted to remove fluids from inside his body. But not to worry - this is Robo Jerry, a simulator created by Dr. Dan Fletcher at Cornell University. He's helping veterinary students learn tricky medical procedures without risking harming animals. SOUNDBITE: (English) DR. DAN FLETCHER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF VETERINARY MEDICINE AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "What we found is that while they might have that knowledge in their heads when it came time to apply to an actual patient they would freeze and have a really hard time with it. So our goal with creating the simulator was to give them an opportunity to take that knowledge, apply it to a real case in real time and see what happened". Simulators have long been used in human medicine, so Fletcher thought it wise to create one for vet students to help them decide on the best course of treatment and practice techniques like CPR. SOUNDBITE: (English) DR. DAN FLETCHER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF VETERINARY MEDICINE AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "I decided that this is something we really need in veterinary medicine so we started by taking a human patient simulator, taking it apart and putting the pieces into a dog mannequin and ultimately a cat mannequin and using that system to simulate the same kinds of problems we see in dogs in cats that we see in people, but in a different environment for our students to practice on." Fletcher created a mechanical heart and pulse, using speakers and a balloon that inflates and deflates, mimicking the heart. An internal chip simulates a chest plate when compression's are being performed. The simulation center where Robos Jerry and Fluffy are used features fully equipped exam rooms, as well as a video-feed observation room, where students gather to give feedback to their peers. Fletcher says the simulators have worked so well, that they're developing another robot. Called Butch, it will feature open source hardware and software platforms to enable schools that can't afford the robot's $35,000 dollar price tag to create their own simulators. Who says it's a dog eat dog world?