It looks like a train and even moves like a train. But if it’s not a train, what is it? It’s one of the new Food Services robots. This month, Children’s Hospital Boston’s Food Services team welcomes six new robots to perform duties, such as transporting food, carts and kitchen supplies to patient units. Each vibrant robot sports an on-board computer containing an operating system that houses a detailed map of the hospital and navigation software that can plan routes, avoid obstacles and track the robot’s location. But contrary to their bright and playful appearance, these machines are all business.
“Our employees sometimes go up and down from the Café to patient floors 10 times during one meal,” says Cathy Hudson, director of operations in Food Services. The robots mean that the Food Services workers can be that much more efficient by focusing on other duties. “Robots can relieve so much of the wear and tear on our people,” says Hudson.
Children’s robots, like Medical Records’ Gizmo, are always special, and these are no different. They’re outfitted with decorative front panels to give them the appearance of colorful trains. Like Gizmo, the train robots can call out pre-recorded statements, like “crossing hallway.” Unlike Gizmo, these robots have no names. But not for long. Food Services is planning a naming contest for their newest helpers.
So what’s it like to work with a robot? Time will tell. But most of the department is enthusiastic about their new work mates and look forward to the trains’ help keeping the department running on time.