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CMU, Pitt to outfit DoD with robotic trauma care tech

Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have each have been awarded four-year contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense to create an autonomous trauma care system.


The autonomous or nearly autonomous system, “TRAuma Care In a Rucksack” (TRACIR), is essentially a backpack containing an inflatable vest or perhaps a collapsed stretcher that can treat and stabilize soldiers injured in remote locations.

It would then open up, inflate, position itself and begin stabilizing the patient, and whatever human assistance it might need could be provided by someone without medical training.

Monitors embedded in the suit will assess injury, while artificial intelligence algorithms will guide the appropriate critical care interventions and robotically apply stabilizing treatments, such as intravenous fluids and medications.

The overall goal of TRACIR is to treat and stabilize soldiers in the battlefield, even during periods of prolonged field care, when evacuation is not possible.

By fusing data captured from multiple sensors and applying machine learning, Pitt is developing more predictive cardio-pulmonary resuscitation opportunities, which are designed to help conserve an injured soldier’s strength.


“Much technology still needs to be developed to enable robots to reliably and safely perform tasks, such as inserting IV needles or placing a chest tube in the field, Ron Poropatich, director of Pitt’s Center for Military Medicine Research and professor in Pitt’s division of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine, said in a statement.

He explained that initially, the research would be “a series of baby steps,” demonstrating the practicality of individual components the system will eventually require.

These steps will lead towards the project’s larger goal, which is to develop more advanced AI technologies that enable medical interventions to extend the “golden hour” for treating combat casualties, thsu ensuring an injured person’s survival for long medical evacuations.

There are also numerous potential civilian applications beyond its use in the military, according to Poropatich, including deployments by drone to hikers or mountain climbers injured in the wilderness.

“It could be used by people in submarines or boats, it could give trauma care capabilities to rural health clinics or be used by aid workers responding to natural disasters,” Poropatich continued. “And, someday, it could even be used by astronauts on Mars.”

Poropatich is the principal investigator on the $3.7 million Pitt contract, while Artur Dubrawski, research professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute, is the principal investigator on the $3.5 million Carnegie Mellon contract.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.

Email the writer: [email protected]

Twitter: @dropdeaded209 

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