COVID-19 & Tech: Robots

On Fridays I plan to spotlight an emerging technology that has been pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic into more mainstream use, sometimes in ways that may seem surreal.

ROBOTS: They’re perfect for doing jobs that are too dangerous for humans to do. So now is the perfect time to deploy them for a variety of helpful tasks and potentially save lives.

Illustration of a robot with the phrase "Onward Robots!" above.
T-shirt design by Chris Ware (Yes, I own this shirt and still wear it.)

Here are some key ways that robots have been, and will continue to be, used during the COVID-19 pandemic.


DELIVERY

To send out groceries and supplies.

Photos of neighborhood delivery robots
Source: ArsTechnica “The pandemic is bringing us closer to our robot takeout future

TELEPRESENCE

To attend virtual graduations:

To conduct live virtual tours of museums

To conduct telehealth visits

A quadrupedal telepresence robot with a tablet for a head, with screen showing a person's face during a virtual telehealth visit.
Source: NPR, “Meet ‘Spot’: The Robot That Could Help Doctors Remotely Treat COVID-19 Patients

ENFORCE SOCIAL DISTANCING

If a drone wasn’t scary enough, how about a creepy headless robot dog shouting at you to go home?

A quadrupedal robot attached with a speaker in a Singapore park; masked people siting on a park bench nearby, listening.
Source: Gizmodo “Pandemic Robots Deployed in Singapore Parks to Remind Humans of Their Own Mortality

SOCIAL ROBOTS

On the much friendlier side of socializing, robots are being used to staff hospitals to entertain, improve morale, and provide information to those recovering.

Photos showing staff robots at a hospital in China.
Source: CNBC “What America can learn from China’s use of robots and telemedicine to combat the coronavirus”

To connect to loved ones in nursing homes:


DISINFECTING

To emit powerful ultraviolet light in hospital rooms:

Robot in hospital emitting ultraviolet light to disinfect the room..
Source: CNBC “What America can learn from China’s use of robots and telemedicine to combat the coronavirus

To spray quarantined and infected areas outside:

Photos of robots capable of spraying outside areas to disinfect them.

CONTINUITY OF WORK

To power people’s mass buying of supplies:

To help workers perform remote operation requiring dexterous manipulation:


ONWARD, ROBOTS!

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