By Shane McGlaun 

One of the things that many people hate most about getting vaccinations and taking certain types of medication is needles. Any medication that has to be delivered intramuscular typically requires a needle and a skilled medical professional to administer it. However, that may change in the future with a new autonomous robot created by a company called Cobionix, founded at the University of Waterloo.

The autonomous robot utilizes the company’s Cobi platform to perform injections without using needles. Cobi is described as a versatile robotic platform that can be deployed rapidly and complete tasks completely autonomously. The robot was fitted with a needle-free injection system. It demonstrated the ability to deliver intramuscular injections to patients without needing needles and without supervision by a healthcare professional.

The robot developers believe that Cobi and solutions like it could help protect healthcare workers, reduce the cost of healthcare, and help improve patient outcomes. Researchers believe the autonomous design of the robot will dramatically reduce the requirements for vaccine clinics and could help deliver vaccines and other medications to remote populations with limited access to healthcare.

While the robot has been used to demonstrate autonomous injections without needles, the system can perform various tasks completely autonomously. Researchers say that initially, they are targeting healthcare applications as well as cleantech and hospitality. Those industries are being targeted because they all have labor shortages and low efficiency. The other is because the team behind the project has experience in those industries.ADVERTISING

One of the potential uses for the robot and its injection system is to help deliver COVID vaccinations. In this scenario, the patient would step up to the robot and show their ID to the camera on the touchscreen surface attached to the robot. Integrated 3D depth sensors would detect the patient’s presence, and once their ID is verified, a robotic arm would retrieve a vaccine file from a storage area.

The robot’s arm would be fitted with a lidar sensor able to create a 3D digital map of the patient’s body and then utilize AI software to determine the optimal injection site. The needle-free injection technology is third-party equipment. It uses a high-pressure jet of fluid able to pass through a hole about as wide as a human hair.

Despite the technology being needed right now, engineers behind the project say they are about two years away from entering the market. The robot could allow more vaccinations to be administered while lowering the cost of healthcare. Since it needs no needles, there is no concern about disposing hazardous knuckle waste or potential needle sticks to healthcare providers administering vaccines. 

The University has shared a video showing the robot in use. The entire process appears to be quite quick and easy to perform. The video does show that despite the machine not using needles, the patient does have to use an alcohol swab to disinfect their arm. The robotic arm does make contact with the user’s arm to administer the injection.