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Robot Sightings increase during COVID pandemic

Robot looking at the sunrise or sunset

During the COVID crisis, we are seeing a dramatic increase in robot sightings. In the past, adoption of robotics in North America was much slower than in the rest of the world. Fear of job losses, as mentioned in a previous blog posting, was seen as one of the main barriers to companies investing in robots. However, given increased risks to health care workers and increase in demand for automated services, we are now experiencing exponential growth in robot sightings and usage.

Fast, Efficient, Contagion-proof: Why Robots Are Emerging as Heroes in War on Coronavirus


According to an April 9th CNN-News18 article, Alexandra Hospital in Singapore will use a robot called BeamPro (from Suitable Tech) to deliver medicine and meals to patients diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition, Doctors and nurses can control the robot by using a computer from outside the room. They can also hold conversations with the patient via the screen and camera.

Another robot sighting is  “James” from ZoraRobotics in Belgium. Our founder tweeted about this at the time.  Originally marketed as ‘the butler you’ve been waiting for’. ZoraRobotics acted quickly when the government banned visitors to care homes. Their executive team chose to lend 60 robots to senior’s homes rather than have them sit in storage.

James, Zora Robotics, Reuters photo March 16, 2020
A robot being introduced to a senior citizen.

Robot sightings around the world

Researchers from Texas A&M University and the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue recently published an article. Their research confirms that ground and aerial robots are playing a notable role in almost every aspect of managing the global COVID crisis. It groups the applications of robotics into 6 major categories:

  • Public Safety, Public Works, Public Health
  • Clinical Care
  • Stability of Work and Education
  • Laboratory and Supply Chain Automation
  • Quality of Life
  • Non-Hospital Care

The authors (Murphy, Adams and Gandaudi) argue that “At work and home, robots are assisting in surprising ways… The experience of using robots for the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to finally learn three lessons documented over the past 20 years”:

  • During a disaster, robots do not replace people
    They either perform tasks that a person could not do or do safely or take on tasks that free up responders to handle the increased workload.
  • Off-the-shelf over prototypes
    …robots used during an emergency are usually already in common use before the disaster. Researchers often rush out near-finished prototypes of robots. During an emergency, responders … are too busy and stressed to learn to use something new and unfamiliar.
  • Repurposing existing robots is generally more effective than making specialized prototypes. Building a new, specialized robot for a task takes years…

This updated graphic, below, of their on-going research is published on Robotics for Infectious Diseases. org.  NOTE: #’s across the top of each category reflect the countries where robot use for COVID19 appeared in social media since the study began (March 2020).

Robotics for Infectious Diseases Reports of Robot Use Worldwide

About the Author

Lee St James is the Founder & President of Social Robots Inc., a social connection innovator for the sandwich generation. Follow her on Twitter @leestj.

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