Service robots are a possible solution to counteract the increasing staff shortage in hospitals. Before deployment, they have to undergo comprehensive tests. For this, the Korean Testing Laboratory has developed a simulation environment using dSPACE tools.

Relevance of Service Robots in Hospitals

Service robots can take over a variety of tasks in medical care, thus relieving the specialist staff. These tasks include the cleaning and preparation of patient rooms, distributing medication, supporting tasks during operations, or transporting medical devices or pharmaceuticals. The global market for medical robots, which also includes service robots, is expected to more than double from six billion US dollars in 2020 to 13 billion US dollars in 2025.1)

Short Portrait KTL

The Korean Testing Laboratory (KTL) is an accredited testing and certification center and also issues both KC and KC-EMC certifications for electronic devices to be marketed in the Republic of Korea. The organization conducts various tests to ensure safe and effective use of the robots. The tests are designed to identify potential risks and ensure that the service robots meet the required quality and performance standards.


Requirements for Approval

For use in such sensitive areas as a hospital, service robots need certification, which is regulated differently internationally. In Korea, KC certification (KC Mark Korea Certification)
and KC-EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) certification are required for robot approval. This certification ensures that the robots adhere to Korean safety standards.
For example,the electromagnetic compatibility is ensured. This means that the robots do not disturb any sensitive electronic equipment, of which there are large numbers in hospitals especially.

From the Real Building Plan to the Virtual Hospital Environment

The development and programming of service robots for use in hospitals and other healthcare facilities is a complex task that presents challenges during development and testing. Among other things, it is important to ensure that the self-driving robots move reliably and safely. This means that it has to recognize obstacles and respond to them.
The robot must not endanger people or damage objects during its movements.

At the same time, however, it must work efficiently. This requires the robot to have a good knowledge of typical hospital workflows and processes. Simulations in a 3D world are therefore ideal for testing the robot’s behavior in a variety of scenarios comprehensively and at early stage.

KTL commissioned dSPACE with developing a corresponding simulation environment in which the software for service robots can be tested. Specifically, KTL wanted to test the control algorithms and functions of autonomous driving in the artificial environment.

Modeling the Hospital Environment with ModelDesk and AURELION

To bring the virtual world to life, real video recordings and a building plan were used to model the hospital environment using the dSPACE software ModelDesk and AURELION.

Model-Desk is a graphical user interface for simulation control, intuitive model parameterization, and parameter set management. Furthermore, the software also provides project management and allows parameter sets to be downloaded to offline and online simulations. AURELION is a comprehensive software solution for sensor simulation and visualization. AURELION makes it possible to integrate realistic sensor data in processes for development, testing, and validation of perception and driving functions. During simulation of the service robots, the comprehensive dSPACE ASM (Automotive Simulation Models) library came into play.

The modeled hospital environment comprises four floors, which means that in addition to traveling along the corridors, there is an additional challenge of independently using elevators. The corridors on each floor were defined as routes with the street editor in ModelDesk. The environment model was extended to visualize the journey in the elevator and to generate the necessary route change at run time. In this way, KTL and dSPACE have worked closely together to create a fully equipped virtual hospital with high-quality 3D objects such as hospital beds and infusion stands. These objects are available to the end customer for individual use in a library.

In the simulation, the robot needs to capture them with its sensors and respond appropriately, specifically to avoid them or remain in one position. In addition, the robot’s sensors also need to recognize writing, for example, no entrance signs for certain rooms. The end customer can adapt the simulated environment according to their needs. In this way, robots can be comprehensively validated for a wide range of applications.

Increasing Number of Tasks for Service Robots

With the particularly realistic simulation solution from dSPACE, KTL is able to test and certify service robots from various Korean manufacturers in an individually customizable virtual hospital environment. This certification strengthens the trust in the quality and safety of the robots and increases their acceptance by users and customers. In this way, the barriers to the use of service robots in hospitals and other healthcare facilities are reduced.

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