IYB UI robot nurse asst

AVATRINA, a robotic avatar nursing assistant under development at the University of Illinois.

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Meet AVATRINA, a robotic nursing assistant under development at the University of Illinois that could potentially deliver some help when the next pandemic comes along.

AVATRINA is an updated version of TRINA (Tele-Robotic Intelligent Nursing Assistant) developed by UI Professor Kris Hauser and his research team.

A UI professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering, Hauser said work on the first version began in 2014 during the Ebola crisis when he was at Duke University.

The second version is still under construction and is being developed in collaboration with the Duke School of Nursing, he said.

At a time when social distancing is needed for safety and many people are working from home, health care workers have to be on-site and exposed to risk of COVID-19 transmission. The use of avatar robots could help limit in-person contacts between providers and patients by performing tasks remotely such as intake and consulting, delivering medications and food and cleaning and disinfecting patient rooms, according to Hauser.

AVATRINA has a robot torso and a mobile base “so you can drive it around a hospital room,” he said. “It has a video conferencing screen so you can communicate with the patient. It has arms and hands so you can do some basic manipulation tasks.”

The AVATRINA team is using virtual reality to allow an operator to feel as though he or she is in the remote environment where the robot is, according to a UI news release. The user would put on a virtual reality headset to see the environment where the robot is and use controllers to manipulate the robot’s movements and operate its hands and arms.

Hauser said there are some hurdles to overcome before AVATRINA is put to work in mainstream health care.

Currently it would cost about $100,000 per robot, but the cost could potentially drop if they went into mass production. He and his team also want to incorporate more artificial intelligence into AVATRINA so interactions between user and robot would be more intuitive.

“I wish I could say that it is ready now,” Hauser said.

Hauser and his team plan to enter AVATRINA in the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition for a $5 million prize and have passed the qualifying round, according to the UI. They are further developing AVATRINA in partnership with Duke University and VRotors LLC.

Take a virtual tour

The Legends Apartments, 4422 Nicklaus Drive, C, is offering a no-contact tour option.

Prospective tenants can take a self-guided, no-contact tour of the model apartment using the Tour24 mobile app. The app provides a code to unlock the apartment door and give information about the apartment throughout the tour.

Tours are available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

The Legends Apartments is owned and operated by Regency Multifamily.

“During this time of social distancing, we feel it is important to offer alternate options for prospective renters to tour our apartment communities,” said Jessica Cohen, director of operations for Regency Multifamily.

Grace period extended

Health Alliance Medical Plans and Health Alliance Northwest are temporarily extending the grace period on premium payments from 30 days to 60 days for all fully-insured small group employers, as defined by the Illinois Department of Insurance, the company announced.

The extension is in effect for all the insurer’s markets and the small group employers that have premiums due between March 1 and April 1.

“As the public health response to COVID-19 continues to evolve, Health Alliance strives to meet the needs of our members,” said Health Alliance CEO Dennis Hesch. “This includes temporarily changing our policies, procedures and practices during this time of need.”

Share news about your local business. Deb Pressey can be reached at 217-351-5229 or dpressey@news-gazette.com.