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Senators learn about robotics, artificial intelligence in the health-care system
Senators learn about robotics, artificial intelligence in the health-care system
May 29, 2017

Senators went back to school to learn how robots are used in the medical field. Members of the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology visited the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Hospital on a fact-finding mission Monday, May 15 as part of their study of the role of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing in the health-care system.


University of Ottawa Fact-Finding Mission

Wojtek Michalowski, a health informatics professor, and Ian Kerr, the Canada Research chair in Ethics, Law and Technology described how AI gives physicians new ways to treat patients. They discussed the ethical issues surrounding the delegating of medical decision-making to machines and the concept of attributing human-like qualities to robots.

Senator René Cormier, seated, waits while a robot renders a 3D model of him.

Engineering faculty members demonstrated their haptics for medical training. Haptics is an AI term that refers to replicating the sensation of touch in electronic devices. They’re using it to better understand surgeries by reproducing the feedback between surgical tools and human tissues. 

Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie tries a haptics device, a robotic tool used to help stroke patients re-learn how to write.

The senators’ second stop was at the Faculty of Engineering’s Bioln Robotics Lab at the University of Ottawa, where researchers are working on improving how a new generation of humanoid robots will interact with humans.

Professor Emil M. Petriu introduced senators to an orange robot named Pumpkin while research assistant Miriam Goubran demonstrated a human-like multi-fingered robot hand that is capable of sensing a person’s touch and manipulating objects.

Research assistant Miriam Goubran demonstrates a prosthetic glove in the Bioln Robotics Lab.

From left, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Senator René Cormier, Senator Art Eggleton and Senator Marie-Françoise Mégie interact with Pumpkin, the robot, in the Bioln Robotics Lab.

Ottawa Hospital Fact-Finding Mission

Next, committee members went to the Ottawa Hospital, home of Canada’s first hospital-based, medical 3D printing program.

Dr. Adnan Sheikh, medical director of the 3D printing program, Leonid Chepelev, radiology resident physician, Dr. Paul E. Beaulé and Dr. Frank J. Rybicki explained how 3D printing’s high degree of precision can be tailored to match each patient’s unique anatomy.