Robot rights
Would you trust a robot to diagnose and treat your illnesses? - Representational image GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

Xiao Yi, a robot built by Tsinghua University in China, is the first robot to pass the country's top medical examination. Xiao Yi scored 456 marks out of a total of 600, which is 96 marks above the minimum cut-off required to pass the exam.

The robot reportedly "studied" 53 medical books, two million medical records and millions of images, along with 400,000 pieces of medical literature, before appearing for the test, said Wu Ji, director of the lab that created Xiao Yi.

As an exercise of recalling from memory, this might not seem like it would be a very difficult task for a robot, but Wu Ji pointed out some of the complexities involved. The questions for the examination change every year, he said and added that the robot's ability to put things in context, study, reason and its decision-making abilities was what made it possible for Xiao Yi to pass the exam, reported the British Journal.

Xiao Yi, however, will not be replacing human doctors in hospitals anytime soon. While it was able to pass the examinations to qualify to become a doctor, the application of the knowledge that it possesses in everyday practice is not something that it is able to do yet, said Tao Xiaodong, the project's manager. He added that there are certain unforeseen circumstances during diagnoses and treatment that the robot might not be able to cope with.

Starting March next year, the report mentioned that Xiao Yi would be undergoing medical education and training. It will also be spending time in clinics with doctors, assisting them in diagnoses and learning at the same time. This could lead to shorter treatment times and improved diagnostic accuracy, noted the report.

The research team will reportedly work with the National Medical Examination Center to jointly explore how AI can be further applied in medical sciences and also in their examinations.

Chinese robots conducting medical procedures is not a new development in the country. A dental implant was recently carried out by a robot for the first time in China. The robot was developed by the Beihang University in Beijing and, according to reports, was even been able to adjust to the patient's movements and carry out precise manoeuvres required for the delicate procedure.