I’m a techguy by education and background (literally @techguy on Twitter) and so I love cool new tech toys. Plus, I’m a boy and you know boys and their toys. So, I was really excited when leading into HIMSS, Revolve Robotics offered to send me a Kubi which I could test out. I’ve personally found that with devices, the only way I can really effectively write about them is to have one and use it for a while. A 15-30 minute canned test at an exhibit hall just doesn’t work for me. With that in mind, I put the Kubi through its paces while I was away at HIMSS.
For those not famliar with the Kubi, it’s a robotic arm that makes video conferencing much more engaging since the person on the other end of the video conference can control the Kubi and point it in any direction they want. It’s literally as if you were present and turned your head a different direction to see what else was happening in the room.
Here’s some pictures which show the Kubi in an actual patient room (click on the image to see a larger version):
The Kubi works with a variety of iOS and Android devices. I was surprised that even my Samsung S5 smartphone fit into the Kubi. Along with the Kubi itself there are 2 different mobile applications. One you can use to control the Kubi while using Skype, Google Hangouts, etc for the video conferencing. The other app is Kubi video which provides a really seamless integration between controlling the Kubi and streaming video. It’s pretty slick to connect and just click where you want the Kubi to “look”.
One challenge in healthcare is that Kubi video is not HIPAA compliant, but Revolve Robotics recently announced partnerships with swyMed to offer a real telemedicine solution for healthcare on top of the Kubi. They’re also working with partners like swyMed to integrate the Kubi control functions into these third party video conference providers. That will be a great feature since it is a little odd to control the Kubi with one app and have the video conference working in another one.
As I start to think about how a Kubi and video conferencing application could be used in healthcare, I can see a number of opportunities. On the one hand you have the patient focused applications which allow someone who’s “stuck” in a hospital bed to be able to communicate with their caregivers or loved ones. Often, the patient can’t even get out of the bed or isn’t strong enough to hold up a tablet for an extended period of time. The Kubi solves that problem. Plus, it allows the friends and family to look around the hospital room. I can already see someone watching TV with their loved one over the Kubi. Small things like that really change the patient experience.
On the other side of things, I could see a Kubi working really well for doctors or nurses wanting to check in with their patients. If the patient clicks the nurse call button, why does the nurse have to run all the way down to the room? They could just hop on the Kubi, find the patient and see what’s needed. In fact, doing so could save them trips back and forth to the room which wastes time.
I think about when my wife was giving birth. How cool would it have been for the doctor to do a video chat on the Kubi with us as opposed to just talking with the nurse and the nurse relaying the message? It doesn’t need to be every update. Maybe it’s when we first showed up or when something major changes. Of course, this could be done with a lot of telemedicine products, but it’s interesting the way the Kubi makes it more dynamic and friendly.
Going back to my personal experience with the product. I was sad that the Kubi video didn’t work with my older iPad. It was one we weren’t using as much anymore and so I could have easily just left it in the Kubi while I was away. Unfortunately, it was too old of a version for that to work. Not a big deal for us though since we have lots of devices in our house.
I still hate the blue tooth pairing of devices (another reason to have a dedicated device that’s paired once and then you forget it), but they have done some unique things to make the pairing recognize the device once it’s put in the Kubi. I wonder if wifi pairing will come soon. I hope so.
It was really fun to use the Kubi while I was at HIMSS to connect with my family back home. In my case, I really could just leave it running and connect to it whenever I wanted. There’s nothing like my 2 year old’s face when he sees me. The nice thing with the Kubi is that talking with a 2 year old is hard. There’s no way he can hold the tablet still and there’s no way he’ll sit still (at least my 2 year old). So, I could follow him around, switch to one of my other kids or my wife and they didn’t have to fight over who was on camera. I could control it myself.
All in all, the Kubi is a pretty creative product. I think it will have a bigger place in healthcare as they start integrating the robotic controls into other applications. The 2 app approach is not going to work out that well for most of healthcare. It needs the integrated experience. I think the Kubi will likely ride the wave of Telemedicine adoption since it makes a nice peripheral to all of those efforts. That’s a good thing for the Kubi since I think Telemedicine is just now starting to come into its own.