Robo-dog makes the training real for vets

Sep 3, 2014

Researchers at Cornell University have created the first robotic pet simulation centre, giving veterinary students hands-on learning experience. Video: Reuters

Researchers at Cornell University have created the first robotic dog and cat simulators, giving veterinarians in training hands-on learning experience.

Medical students have been practicing for years on human simulators, but there has not been anything comparable for veterinary students, explained Dr. Dan Fletcher, an assistant professor at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Fletcher used his engineering background to build the simulators. He says that canines are quite similar in physiology to people, so it made sense to refashion a human simulator.

The result: Robo Jerry and Robo Fluffy, whose off-the-shelf components create realistic emergency scenarios, that enable students to practice techniques like CPR and intubation.

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 compressions are being performed.

The simulation centre where Robos Jerry and Fluffy are used features fully equipped exam rooms, as well as a video-feed observation room, where students gather to watch before giving 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.

The team say the veterinary simulation centre is the first of its kind in the world, but hope that Butch will start to change all that.


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