R2D2's Friend TUG: Hospital Robot By Aethon

Aethon's TUG robots look like little R2D2 on Jabba's sail barge, and are just as helpful. Hopefully not fomenting insurrection or aiding escapes by hospital patients, though.


(Aethon TUG Robot delivery in hospitals)

Meet the Tugs - a team of 27 robots now zooming around the hallways of the new University of California, San Francisco hospital at Mission Bay. They look a bit like R2D2, dragging a platform around behind them. Instead of drones, think of them more as little flatbed trucks, ferrying carts of stuff around the vast hospital complex - food, linens, medications, medical waste and garbage. And they do it more efficiently than humans.

"This one is going up to one of the floors. It's carrying meals that were ordered in probably the last 20 minutes," said Dan Henroid, who is in charge of this elite fleet, as he pointed to a robot motoring by him.

Henroid, who is also director of nutrition and food services for the USCF Medical Center, says each Tug travels about 35 miles each day. Over the past year, they have made more than 157,000 trips through the hospital. Henroid said no one in the hospital has lost a job to the robots. UCSF was in the midst of a hiring spree for the new hospital, and the Tugs allowed him to hire about 30 fewer workers than he would have otherwise.

He added that the robots are really just carting things from one point to another, something most humans would not find particularly rewarding. "The Tug has a job to do, and it's sort of a thankless job. So, I think, better to have a robot doing it, perhaps, than a human."

Speaking as someone who put himself through college as a stockkeeper in a large university hospital, I can tell you that I didn't get bored of doing it, and it was good job to have. But who can resist R2 in the 1983 movie Return of the Jedi?


(R2D2 serves drinks on Jabba's sail barge)

Via PhysOrg; see also Aethon's TUG robot site.

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