COVID-19 Proves as a Catalyst for the Increased Development of Social Robots 

COVID-19 Proves as a Catalyst for the Increased Development of Social Robots 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues spreading all over the world, putting extreme pressure on healthcare organizations, hospital staff and governments as well. Thousands of people lost their lives and billions have sent to stay home in order to contain the virus. However, this pandemic also brings some opportunities for innovation in the healthcare system and health technologies. Amid such development, robots emerge as an effective technology for patient care during the crisis. As robots are immune to COVID-19, its adoption is already augmenting not only in healthcare facilities but also in hotels that are turned into isolation zone to quarantine patients with the virus.

Robotics could play a major role in fighting against this contagious disease, warding off doctors from getting expose to COVID-19 by delivering essentials such as food and medicines to patients. They are also assisting by supplying essentials to homes and delivering treatment in high-risk areas of the pandemic.

Robots can also be used for clinical care, including de-contamination, delivery and handling of contaminated waste, as well as monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines. Robot-assisted non-contact ultraviolet surface disinfection has already been in use for disease prevention, as COVID-19 spreads not only from person to person through close contact respiratory droplet transfer but also through contaminated surfaces. According to reports, ultraviolet light has been shown to be effective in reducing contamination on surfaces in hospitals. A hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, for instance, is using an ultraviolet light robot to disinfect the facility. The hospital is using this system instead of hydrogen peroxide as UV light cuts cleaning time from hours to a matter of minutes.

Besides effective for disinfecting areas, delivering medications and food, robots are also able to measure vital signs of the virus. Combined with thermal sensors and vision algorithms on autonomous or remotely operated robots, automated camera systems can monitor temperatures of patients in hospitals. For instance, TUS PHID System, developed by Tus Data Asset, could validate the identity of people through facial recognition and perform thermal camera checks at the same time. As a result, those with abnormal temperatures could be effectively detected and close contact could be prevented for possible infection. The system could perform rapid body temperature checks contactlessly.

In addition to this, Beijing-based robotics company CloudMinds deployed its 14 robots in the Hongshan Sports Center in Wuhan, China that can help with cleaning and disinfecting hospitals, delivering medicine to patients and measuring their temperature.

To contributing its efforts in the fight against COVID-19, enterprise RPA software company UiPath is also offering healthcare organizations free RPA software to expedite critical processes and slacken strapped employees so they can more rapidly respond to issues arising due to the pandemic. Last month, the company launched a pro bono automation project with the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital. The Mater Hospital in Dublin is using UiPath's attended robots to process COVID-19 testing kits in a fraction of the time.

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