Some people are champs about having blood drawn and even go back as often as they're allowed to donate blood. If you're one of those people that's frickin great. Go pat yourself on the back. If not you are probably thinking that you don't want a robot coming anywhere near you with a needle. But the robot might actually be the better bet.
A startup called Veebot is testing a prototype robot that they hope will draw blood faster and more accurately than a human. The goal is to automate both blood draws and IV insertions to make the process even more standard, and reduce complications. The robot has a tourniquet similar to a blood pressure cuff to make a patients' veins more prominent. It uses infrared light, a special camera and ultrasound combined with image-analysis software to choose a vein and confirm that enough blood is flowing through it. Then the robot lines up the needle and inserts it into the arm at the calculated correct depth. The whole draw takes about a minute plus additional time depending on how much blood is being collected.
Currently Veebot chooses the best vein about 83 per cent of the time, which is on par with the average phlebotomist. The company says it will work to get the rate to 90 per cent before attempting to enter clinical trials, though. Which is comforting for those of us who prefer not to interact with phlebotomists of any sort, be they human or robot. [IEEE Spectrum]