Clinicians set to get remote ‘feel’ for patients in trial of Välkky telerobot

Doctors could one day ‘feel’ patients remotely following pilot trials at a Finnish hospital by Touchlab, a start-up that has taken residency at the National Robotarium in Edinburgh.

Valkky Teslachair 2
Valkky Teslachair 2 - Forum Virium Helsinki

The so-called Välkky telerobot is controlled with an electronic haptic glove equipped with what is claimed to be the most advanced haptic electronic skin - e-skin – that usually comprises single or multiple ultra-thin force sensors to transmit tactile sensations in real time from one source to another.

The three-month pilot at Helsinki’s Laakso Hospital will see nurses explore how robotics systems can help deliver care, reduce workload and prevent the spread of infections or diseases. Coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki, the Finnish capital’s innovation company, the research is part of a wider €7bn project aimed at developing the most advanced hospital in Europe by 2028.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15 per cent of patients in low- and middle-income countries acquire at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI) during their hospital stay and, on average, one-tenth of affected patients die because of their HAI.


With over 43,000 registered nursing vacancies in England, it is hoped that Välkky will complement existing staff, freeing up people to focus on more complex nursing tasks while allowing the robot to carry out day-to-day clinical duties like measuring vital signs. It is also claimed to be able to serve meals, move assistive devices and support patient care with daily tasks including brushing hair.

In a statement, Touchlab CEO, Dr Zaki Hussein, said: “In the past, telerobots have been limited to being able to see, hear and speak on behalf of the people using them. Now, thanks to our innovative e-skin technology, robots like Välkky can ‘feel’ too - and not only on their fingertips.

“It’s our ambition that the anonymised, real-time data gathered throughout the project will help prove that semi-autonomous robots can co-exist with and support professionals in a variety of industries like healthcare and the transition to greener energy sources.”

Outside of healthcare, additional applications could include nuclear decommissioning and the handling of toxic waste.