The saddest truth about the pandemic is that the medical professionals who warn us daily about the dangers of COVID-19 and the importance of social distancing are the ones working in closest proximity to the disease. Hence, they are unable to stay safe at home.
The healthcare industry is not one that can be automated by robots or artificial intelligence (AI) — considering its demand for healthcare workers who possess a wide range of technical and soft skills, including empathy, fine motor skills, and life-and-death decision making. Still, this crisis could be seen as an opportunity for companies to test and further develop their robotic systems.
Already, we are seeing many instances of robots and AI protecting human workers, despite being unable to replace them entirely. Danish company UVD Robots, for example, have developed robots that disinfect contaminated surfaces with UV light, while Diligent Robotics’ ‘Moxi’ can navigate a clinic’s hallways to collect and deliver medical resources.
Robots are also used to quickly check people’s symptoms and diagnose them with COVID-19 accordingly. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a COVID-19 chatbot using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service. Research also shows that engineers may develop mobile robots to check patients’ temperatures.
Telepresence robots with screen on wheels displaying the faces of healthcare workers are used to accompany patients physically. This development opens up numerous possibilities, from doctors being able to carry out remote health check-ups in various locations, to families’ connecting with their elder loved ones. The elderly are very much in need of social interaction but are self-isolating from being most susceptible to the disease.