A robot avatar for physicians that roams hospital corridors and visits patients just received the nod of approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.
The RP-VITA robot, which wandered around this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is considered one of the "smartest" telepresence robots. Thanks to the onboard software "brains" from iRobot (makers of the self-driving vacuum Roomba) and InTouch Health, physicians appear on the robot's screen to converse with patients remotely, while also controlling the robot's movements from afar.
RP-VITA will likely go on sale within several months - but it isn't cheap: estimates range from $4,000 to $6,000 a month for hospitals to operate, according to the Boston Globe.
A similar robot could allow retailers to remotely help customers in stores or serve as security guards in parking lots or large buildings, LiveScience reports.