"ENGINEERS at the University of Warwick are helping to design 'R2D2'-type robo nurses which could be in hospitals by 2020. i-WARD is the name of the £2.6 million collaborative EU funded three-year project.
It stands for Intelligent Robot Swarm for Attendance, Recognition, Cleaning and Delivery.
Professor Vinesh Raja, Professor Fellow of Informatics, at the university's International Manufacturing Centre, said the role of the robots was not to replace nurses but to help carry out basic tasks such as leading a patient to a ward, monitoring security surveillance, delivering drugs to a doctor and cleaning a floor.
He said: "i-Ward would mean hospital staff being able to spend more time with their patients, relieving them from the drudgery of mundane tasks."
Like R2D2 in Star Wars, these robo nurses will have the ability to communicate with other robots.
Professor Raja said: "The robots will be able to talk among themselves. If there is a spillage on ward 27, one robot will communicate with another, saying: 'Who has the cleaning ability?'
"We are working on how a human nurse on a ward will communicate with a robot. Some nurses may use a PDA touchpad PC; others may want to give a voice command."
The tiny mobile robots are made as small and versatile as possible, measuring no more than 50cm x 50cm x 50cm.
They will be equipped with an on-board computer, radio module, optical sensors, loudspeakers and cleaning tools for wiping up spills and disinfecting..."