This hair-transplant robot shows how humans and machines will work together

The most likely future is for robots to assist humans at work, not replace them

The ARTAS robotic-assisted hair grafting device

(Restoration Robotics)

A fun way to celebrate Labour Day is to think about all the ways in which robots are making human jobs and tasks easier or better.

One of the most cited examples is chess-playing. Computers learned to outplay humans a while ago, but rather than give up on the game entirely, fleshy grandmaster types have instead incorporated machines into their games. Now, they’re even more powerful human-machine chess master hybrids.

Another lesser known example is found in the field of hair replacement. Horror stories of hair transplant surgeries abound – it’s not hard to find tales of bleeding, swelling, scars and the like.

But, just as in chess, a human-robot hybrid has arisen in an effort to improve the situation. In 2011, Restoration Robotics got approval from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration to begin commercial operations with its Artas System, which uses digital imaging and a robotic arm to help with the hair transplant procedure.

To begin, a human doctor identifies a “donor area” on the back of the patient’s scalp. After local anesthetic has been applied, the robot arm comes in and plucks a crop of hairs. The doctor then reinserts the follicles in the needed area. Here’s the plucking procedure in action:

The new hybrid process is known as Follicular Unit Extraction and the testimonials for the procedure are generally better. Patients say there’s no bleeding and any discomfort they feel after the fact is usually gone within a day or so. There’s also no telltale line along the back of their head that indicates they’ve had a hair transplant.

So let’s hear it for the new doctor-robot hybrids, who are making male pattern baldness more bearable for men, one follicle at a time.