‘The death ray was optional’ – what public-service robots looked like in 90s

Written by Sam Trendall on 31 May 2018 in News
News

Hospital shines a light on long-forgotten tale of its ‘most unusual employee’

Credit: CC BY 2.0

A hospital in north-west London has lifted the lid on the long-forgotten story of Jeeves – a short-lived robot employee formerly used to carry medical notes and blood samples.

In the mid-1990s Northwick Park Hospital put Jeeves the robot (pictured right) to work. The automaton had already been rolled out in more than 50 hospitals in the US and was employed on this side of the pond “to carry out mundane but avoidable tasks”, Northwick Park said.

The droid – which had its own ID badge – was pre-programmed with a map of the hospital’s corridors, and was principally tasked with transporting notes and blood samples.

“Jeeves… moved at a slow walking speed and immediately stopped if obstructed, before making a polite request for people to step aside,” the hospital added. “The death ray was obviously an optional extra.”

The robot did not pass muster during a six-month probation period and, for the last 20 years, nothing more has been heard of the five-foot-tall machine – until its story was uncovered by Northwick Park in the course of searching for material to include in the hospital’s celebrations of the NHS’s 70th birthday, which will take place this summer.

The hospital concluded: “Rust in peace, Jeeves.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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