ROBOT: A Step Toward An Autonomous Onboard Robo-Physician

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Wed Nov 14 2001 - 19:48:21 MST

Robo Doc Gets An Eyefull
A five-minute vision test using a laptop computer with a touch-sensitive
screen can be used on Earth and in space to help diagnose the onset of eye
diseases and even certain types of brain tumors.
With one eye covered, a person sits in front of a computer screen divided into
a grid. The subject stares at a central spot on the touch-sensitive screen
and, using a finger, outlines missing areas of the grid. The computer records,
processes and displays a 3-D image of the subject's visual field. The test for
each eye takes about 4 to 5 minutes.

"As NASA moves forward to establish a permanent presence in space, this may be
considered a breakthrough step for the creation of an autonomous onboard
physician," said Dr. Wolfgang Fink, physicist and senior member of the
technical staff at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"It is a non- invasive, quick and easy process that gives astronauts and
physicians on the ground an almost instant auto diagnosis. This type of
technology will be useful for long-term space missions where early detection
and advance monitoring will be key to the health of the astronauts."

Fink, a visiting research assistant professor of ophthalmology at the
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, developed the 3-D
Computer-Based Threshold Amsler Grid Test as part of his post-doctoral
research while at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, with his
colleague Dr. Alfredo Sadun, Thornton professor of ophthalmology at USC.
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

"This new test is not only more revealing than standard visual field tests,
but it is also much quicker and simpler than existing methods. This test may
make visiting an ophthalmologist cost-effective, convenient and fast, giving
the doctor a tool to do a better job," said Sadun.

This tool has been undergoing testing in clinical trials that began last year
at the Doheny Eye Institute, Keck School of Medicine at USC. Trial results
show that the screening test helps detect a variety of eye conditions, such as
glaucoma and macular degeneration-- the two leading causes of blindness. Early
detection of these conditions and appropriate treatment are crucial in
preventing further loss of sight.

Caltech has filed a full patent on the screening test, and several companies
have expressed interest in licensing the technology that may become
commercially available as early as next year.

Future uses envisioned are: monitoring the effects of intracranial pressure
elevation in low-gravity environments and evaluation of possible stroke onset
and of acute and chronic stroke conditions.

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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
non-sensory experience

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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