ROLE OF ROBOTICS TO COMBAT WITH COVID-19

Today, the world is battling the most complex pandemic and the only possible antidote at this moment is social distancing. With everyone locked indoors, the world economies are headed towards depression.
Amid this pandemic, technology acts as a lifeboat, keeping us and businesses afloat. The one silver lining in these times is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Mechanical Innovations.
As we move forward, just like other technologies, robots are also playing an important role in fighting against diseases like COVID-19. In this case, robotic technology plays a crucial role in not just assisting the patients but also keeping doctors and health-care staff safe.

According to a study published in Science Robotics, “Robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls. As epidemics escalate, the potential roles of robotics are becoming increasingly clear.” Robotics has emerged as a much-needed aid for the health-care industry, protecting the front-line workers such as doctors, policemen, the defense industry, etc. to keep people indoors, reduce human involvement in the supply chain and enable the smooth working of business sectors.
The various aspects in which the robots are helping in the forefront sectors can be seen below:

HEALTH-CARE SECTOR

The most important sector at this moment, in the entire world, is the health-care sector as it is trying to fight the pandemic at the forefront. Here are the ways in which Robots and Artificial Intelligence are being a great help to this sector:

VIDEO CONFERENCING

Now, when people are told to practice social distancing and when air travel has also been halted, medical personnel from different parts of the globe are connecting with each other via video conferencing, not just to find solutions to this problem, but also for issues regarding medical surgeries and training.

SURVEILLANCE IN ISOLATION CAMPS

While those infected are being kept in isolation centers, they need to be checked from time to time. So, instead of sending in medical staff, doctors have been using sensors or sending in robots to the room of the patients, which inform the doctors about patients’ medical conditions such as body temperature, etc.

DISINFECTING ROBOTS

Robots are being used even for disinfecting hospitals, isolation centers, streets, and areas around the hospitals. For such purposes, drones are used to fly above the desired areas and sanitize the area. A Danish company known as UVD robots came up with robots that move around health-care facilities on their own and spread UV light to disinfect the rooms contaminated with viruses.
Another company, XAG robot is working on robots that are deployed to spray sanitizer on the streets and desired areas. TMiRob is another medical robot developer that claims that their robots release hydrogen-peroxide and UV light. Additionally, these robots also make people aware that they are coming to disinfect a room, before entering.

ROBOTS DELIVERING SUPPLIES

Diligent Robotics has been working on its robot known a Moxi. Moxi is specialized in picking up medical supplies from supply closets and delivering it to the rooms of the patients; hence reducing the human exposure to the infected people.

RESEARCH

The virus is spreading rapidly and we are falling short of time to find the perfect vaccine. Robots are helping us scan hundreds of thousands of previously published research works to ease out the work of humans. For example, the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), an initiative building on Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) Semantic Scholar project, uses natural language processing (NLP) to analyze tens of thousands of scientific research papers at an exceptional pace. This dataset provides data scientists, the opportunity to flex their natural language processing and text mining muscles.

DEFENSE SECTOR

Another sector which comprises of the front-line workers in the defense sector. When the governments are taking the decision of a nationwide lockdown, it is the responsibility of this sector to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted implementation of the same. The defense sector is able to do it while practicing social distancing at the same time, only with the help of robotics.
The defense sector is using drones to patrol areas to ensure people aren’t coming out in large groups. China is using AI-powered drones and robots to detect population movement and social gatherings and to identify individuals with a fever or who aren’t wearing masks. Meanwhile, Israel is using AI-driven contact tracing algorithms to send citizens personalized text messages, instructing them to isolate after being near to someone with a positive diagnosis. Start-up Guangzhou Gosuncn Robot Company has come up with robots that can patrol around the streets and while patrolling, these can check people’s temperature and inform if someone has a fever even from 5 meters away. It can also tell whether a person is wearing a mask or not.

OTHER BUSINESS SECTORS

The sector which could have been the worst-hit sector by this pandemic is the business sector but for not letting that happen, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence play a big role. From delivering groceries to payment methods, to helping connect company officials with each other, robots and machines have been doing it all.

VIDEO CONFERENCING:

Not being in the office and still maintaining the same smoothness is tough, when you are not connected with the people you are working with. This hasn’t been a problem for almost all the companies as they are continuing to be in touch with each other regularly via video conferencing. Be it the topmost officials of an organization or the clients, everyone can connect and give inputs because of video conferencing.

DELIVERY ROBOTS

In these times from delivering groceries, meals, essential items, and medicines to ones who need them, robots are doing it all. In some countries, drones are used to fly to the destination with the items attached beneath them. The autonomous REV robots made by the Refraction AI are being used by restaurants and other vendors to autonomously deliver items with the least human interaction possible.

COOKING ROBOTS

Robots are even being deployed to cook food for the front-line workers in workplaces, to reduce the probability of infection spread, so that nobody is at risk.

RECYCLING ROBOTS

When humans are suggested to maintain a certain distance between them, robots are the ones that can work in close proximity to each other. Robots have sorted the work of recycling workers who were required to work in close proximity with their co-workers; hence enhancing the safety.

AI BASED SOLUTIONS

When people are not allowed to step outside of their houses, there are computers being placed where humans used to work. The call centers have shifted to AI-based computers that solve issues being faced by people. Even the likes of YouTube have replaced their employees, where the company has more machines doing content moderation.

WHAT DOES THIS MEANS IN THE LONG RUN?

In the long run, we can see people being replaced by computers and robots, as they’ll be able to maintain the work efficiency higher than humans with lesser mistakes. Robotics has gained a lot of importance in these times and the study and use of them will only increase as we move ahead.
In the United Kingdom, doctors are working on what they call the future of health-care. It is a robot that would be able to hold multiple conversations at the same time. The project has been designed to help elders. Experts believe this breakthrough could help in dealing with future disease outbreak like the ongoing pandemic. Speaking to BBC.com, Oliver Lemon, a professor of Computer Science at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, said, “You can imagine in the future that when you walk into a hospital waiting room, instead of encountering a human, you encounter a robot that’s able to help you.” “That kind of hands-free, touch-free speech interface is really going to be in more demand.”, he added.

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