Most people know the company Boston Dynamics for its viral videos of a robot dog that can run and climb stairs. Now that robot dog, named Spot, has been busy on the front lines of Boston's pandemic response. WGBH Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu spoke with Boston Dynamics' Vice President of Business Development Michael Perry on the robot's role in the medical field. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: You're working with Brigham and Women's Hospital to help treat patients without doctors being in the same room.

Michael Perry: That's right. One of the things that's so powerful about robots is the ability to do dull, dirty or dangerous tasks. And in the last three months, the world of dangerous tasks where robots could be helpful in taking people out of environments where they might run the risk of infection has grown exponentially, particularly in a medical context. So we've been very excited to see the medical community start exploring how our robots can help reduce the load that first responders or healthcare practitioners have to face in interacting with patients who might be sick.

Mathieu: So tell me how it works and what would it be like for me as a patient when a robot walks in the room?

Perry: Great question. So in the trials that Brigham and Women's have been doing, first of all, they ask patients whether or not they would prefer to interact with a healthcare provider in person or a healthcare provider via a robot. Most of the patients that have been interviewed have preferred to interact with a robot instead, knowing that that helps reduce the risk both to the healthcare provider and to themselves. After they choose the robot, the robot walks in and it will have a screen on the front of it so that you can talk face-to-face to a healthcare provider. The healthcare provider walks through a 15-question list of potential symptoms, and the robot is also equipped with other sensors that can start doing vitals assessments, so looking at core body temperature, heart rate [and] respiratory rate, and we're also exploring some means of checking the volume of oxygen in the blood without having to make contact with the patient.

Mathieu: Wow, I didn't know that was possible. How do you get blood pressure without making contact?

Perry: Part of what makes the robot so powerful is the flexibility to add different software solutions on the back of the robot. So there's a team at M.I.T. that's exploring ways that thermal camera imagery can be used to infer a variety of critical vital signs that are important for healthcare practitioners in their initial assessment of patients.

Mathieu: You also hope, I read, to be able to help with disinfecting cleaning areas, maybe such as a hospital room, without putting people at risk. You describe a process as essentially attaching a powerful UV light onto the back of the robot. Is that something that you're making progress on?

Perry: Yeah. So we've seen there already are a variety of robots that are being deployed and hospital settings to carry powerful UV lights or sprays to disinfect rooms after a patient has gone. The challenge is that that technology could be incredibly useful in a variety of environments where robots were not designed to go. We've been approached by metro stations, warehouses, manufacturing facilities, construction sites, stadiums [and] theme parks — any place where a person might regularly need to go, but you want to make sure that it's clean before the next person goes into that space. So we've been exploring with a variety of partners either sprays or light-based solutions to disinfect those spaces so that we reduce the risk to the people that have to go into those environments.

Mathieu: This is really something, Michael. You just rattled off a number of different customers you're working with. I know that you've also worked with law enforcement [and] the U.S. military. Is working in the healthcare field a new revenue stream for your company?

Perry: It certainly was a surprise to us to explore medical applications for the robot. When we first started thinking about industrial applications for Spot, we were primarily thinking of electric power generation facilities or oil and gas production sites — any place that's dangerous for people to go on a regular basis, but also unstructured, meaning that it's not flat and consistent like, say, a floor of a hospital. But the response that's required for COVID has ended up incorporating a variety of environments that we typically think of as safe for people. That includes metro stations, for example. Or in the medical context, we've seen overflow tents be set up so that the ICU is not filled with patients, but a triage facility can be set in the parking lot or on the front lawn of a hospital before patients actually have to go into the hospital itself. So in those situations, you need a different type of mobility that only our robots are able to provide.

Mathieu: It's yet another turn that the pandemic has brought to the world of business. I'm curious, Michael, is there another name for the hospital bots, or are they all called Spot?

Perry: Well, we jokingly call them "Dr. Spot" in the office.