Due to a hike in the number of patients across hospitals, many facilities have started substituting healthcare workers with robots
As countries around the world are lifting lockdowns and people are stepping into a different livelihood, necessary precautions are being taken for infection prevention. In order to limit human contact and maintain social distancing, many entities are relying on artificial intelligence to ensure utmost safety for people who are heading back to normal life.
Amongst all, medical facilities are trying their level best to treat Covid-19 patients as well as contain the spread of the virus from patients to healthcare workers. Since there has been a hike in the number of patients across hospitals, many facilities have started substituting workers with robots.
Here are a few examples of robots being used to assist entities during the pandemic.
Rwanda's medical robots
Kanyinya Treatment Centre, located in Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, started using five medical robots donated by the United Nations Development Programme to limit staff contact with Covid-19 patients. The robots – Akazuba, Ikizere, Mwiza, Ngabo, and Urumuri – can be used to screen body temperature of 150 people in a minute, monitor the status of patients, and keep records of patients.
The robots record patients' audio and visual data and notify the healthcare workers if any symptoms are detected. They can also carry food, medicine, and necessities to patients, reducing the risk of contamination for healthcare workers. These high-tech bots can carry out conversations and can transmit pre-recorded messages and important information in order to assist the workers and patients.
The director of the Humanitarian Technology Lab at Amrita University's Coimbatore campus in South India, Dr Rajesh Kannan Megalingam, and his team have built a similar robot that can carry essentials to patients.
They also constructed an automated wheelchair that can carry patients without coming in direct contact. The wheelchair can be operated using a smartphone and it reduces the risk for the hospital support staff to get infected.
While such bots are working to contain the infection as much as possible, there are some self-driving bots operating to reduce contamination at medical facilities as well.
Some hospitals in China and Italy have been using UVD robots equipped with ultraviolet lamps that can disinfect a hospital room within 10-12 minutes.
A UVD robot can easily learn the hospital's layout and can carry out the disinfection process on its own. Amazon built a similar roving robot equipped with UV light bulbs as well. This bot can walk itself through warehouses and food stores, and disinfect the premise.
Korea's SK Telecom and Omron Electronics built a bot that can function as both – medical and cleaning bot. This self-driving robot is being used at SK Telecom's headquarters to check the temperature of visitors, dispense hand sanitiser, and disinfect the surroundings. If it detects anyone with a temperature over 37.5 Celsius, it sets off an alarm.
Upon detecting gatherings, it advises people to maintain social distancing through pre-recorded messages. It even advises people to put on masks if they are not wearing any.
The robot is equipped with ultraviolet lamps and disinfectant sprays, and can disinfect 99 percent of a 355-square-foot area within 10 minutes.
As mentioned before, many countries are reducing their restrictions on lockdowns. As people are trying to get back to their normal lives, the restaurant business has also begun reopening their stores maintaining safety guidelines and some are even using bots for customers willing to grab a quick bite.
To limit the customer-waiter interaction, Dadawan restaurant, located in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht, has appointed three waiter robots. The three bots – Amy, Aker, and James – are equipped with arms that hold the trays and move from the counter to the tables.
Their face (monitor) displays a smile and holds the tray in front of tables for the customers to pick up their orders from the tray. The robots are only serving drinks to customers for now and the owners of the restaurant plan on expanding its features.
Another café in Daejon, South Korea, has also brought it a new barista bot that can make 60 types of coffee. This barista even has helping hands – self-driving bots which can pick up orders from the counter and deliver at the designated table.
Robots in gowns
While businesses and offices have started operating, many educational institutions are yet to resume their traditional curricula. Though it is not a new concept, a Malaysian university took the initiative to bid farewell to its fresh graduates virtually.
The Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin in Terengganu planned on holding a virtual convocation as they are yet to resume normal operations.
A video demonstration published by the university showed that the robots were dressed in gowns and electronic devices like smartphones, and tablets were fitted on the face of the robots. The fresh graduates could attend the entire event through live streaming at home and robots would receive the scrolls on behalf of the students.
This event would have taken place, but the university had to hold the ceremony off for now as some students did not want robots to be accepting scrolls on their behalf.
Robot patrol dog
Like students who prefer getting their graduation scrolls in person, there are many who prefer jogging out in nature rather than running on a treadmill at home. When the government of Singapore reopened the parks for the public, it introduced a bot patrol dog as well.
Spot – a four-legged advanced robot developed by Boston Dynamics – was deployed at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to ensure that people are maintaining social distancing effectively. This robot was part of a two-week-long pilot project that was initiated to examine ways artificial intelligence could aid in reducing human contact.
This robot has a 360-degree vision that can detect individuals and objects using its cameras and sensors. Spot can roam around the park at the speed of 4.82kmph and can remind people of maintaining social distance if it spots any gatherings.