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"The answer to the problem of information overload on the Net is reputations… engineer a system called a reputation server."
- Neal Stephenson

Medical Mantis  
  A medical telefactoring device; allows a physician to remotely examine patients and perform procedures.  

Telefactor devices are beginning to appear in the practice of medicine. The medical mantis provides a well-written glimpse at something we may all encounter someday.

There's this praying mantis a meter long, all black with chrome trim, hanging upside down from the ceiling of the Medical cubby. ..it hovers over his face, jointed arms clicking and dipping like crazy articulated chopsticks...

The mantis stops in midmotion, its antennae quivering... "Hello, er-Gerry, isn't it?" it says at last. "I'm Dr. Troyka."

Fischer remembers: the medical equipment can't always do everything on its own. Sometimes, when things get too complicated, it calls up the line to a human backup.

"Wow," says the mantis. "What happened to you?"

From Starfish, by Peter Watts.
Published by Tor Books in 1999
Additional resources -

This sequence is great fun in the novel. It hints a little at the paranoid mindset of some of the characters.

In the real world, a variety of devices have appeared to assist physician's in the performance of their duties. For example, RoboDoc Robotic Surgical Assistant from Integrated Surgical Systems has been providing assistance to physicians doing hip replacement surgery since 1992. The device

"... mills a cavity in the femur for the placement of a prosthetic implant. The system is designed to accurately shape the cavity for a precise fit and precise positioning of the implants in the cavity for optimum biomechanics."

For the first reference (anywhere! as far as I know) to a machine that would allow a physician to examine a patient at a distance, see the telemedicine apparatus from E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops, published in 1909.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Starfish
  More Ideas and Technology by Peter Watts
  Tech news articles related to Starfish
  Tech news articles related to works by Peter Watts

Medical Mantis-related news articles:
  - da Vinci Surgical Robot: Dr.'s Helper
  - InTouch Companion: Medical Rounding Robot
  - NEEMO 7 - NASA Undersea Robotic Telemedicine Experiment

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