Combat medics with Headquarters Company, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, treat a notional casualty during a demonstration of lifesaving care as part of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command’s Capability Days event, Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Credit: U.S. Army)

A new capability being developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory that combines the abilities of human medics with virtual and robotic assistants has been recognized, with an honorable mention in the Rapid Response category, of Fast Company’s 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards.

As the nature of warfare changes and disasters continue to endanger large populations, military and civilian medics could be called upon to provide critical care at an unprecedented scale ― and APL’s research initiative explores new ways that artificial intelligence, augmented reality and robotics can support collaborative intervention by teams of medics, as well as extend a first responder’s reach and effectiveness under challenging circumstances.

During a technology demonstration and related research conducted in collaboration with the Army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, APL and TATRC researchers led scenarios where robots retrieved medical supplies and monitored patients, among other critical support tasks, using a combination of robot autonomy and remote control.

This physical experiment demonstrated that these technologies can help human medics render more assistance for more casualties during longer periods of time, and that implementation of an integrated solution has the potential to save lives and improve the overall health of patients.

This effort leverages ongoing research at APL sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory and the Army Artificial Intelligence Innovation Institute on adaptive human-robot teaming.

A panel of Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners from a pool of more than 1,300 entries. Rapid Response was one of many categories across climate, social justice, wellness, politics, technology, corporate social responsibility and more.