Pandemic – a challenge for robotics



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Pandemic – a challenge for robotics

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Some may know that robots, not humans, have been carrying medical instruments from department to department for a long time at Lozenets Hospital in Sofia, including between different floors. Robots are critical in an era of epidemics, such as the one that has been turning our backs lately.

As with all other acute cases, as was the case with the Fukushima accident, the robot industry is called upon to mobilize its efforts and find solutions that will help address the situation.

Robots can help deal with a crisis, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, much easier, says world-renowned medical robotics expert Guang-jung Yang before IEEE Spectrum.

Young is the co-founder and editor of Science Robotics, as well as the co-founder and former director of the Hamlin Center for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College London.

Most recently, Dean is the founder of the Institute of Medical Robotics at Shanghai Zhao Tong University, often referred to as China’s MIT. Quarantined in a hotel room in Shanghai after traveling abroad, Young manages most of the Institute’s activities from his hotel room.

“Robots can be very helpful to help you manage this situation, whether it is reducing human contact or as a first-line tool that you can use to help control the epidemic,” he says.

Today, robots used in medicine rely on technologies that are mature enough to be implemented. In the future, however, robotics professionals will need to work closely with medical professionals to develop new types of infectious disease robots.

Robots and pandemics

Many different robots are involved in the care of coronavirus patients. For example, robots disinfect hospitals using UV light. Drones carry medical specimens. The prototype robot, developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, allows remote collection of oropharyngeal swab samples from patients (throat secretions), so the medical professional does not need to wipe patients directly. Robots deliver food to hospital rooms, even when they can enter elevators and open and close doors.

“I think in events involving infectious diseases, such as this coronavirus epidemic, everyone is aware of the importance of robots.

The challenge is that people at most research institutes are more concerned about specific research topics, and it’s really the job of scientists – to get deeper into scientific problems and solve specific problems – but we also need to look globally to solve them. with great challenges like this pandemic, “says Guang-jung Yang.

What is needed is to make a coordinated and systematic effort to deploy the robots so that they can help.
Coordinated effort

After a major crisis, when everything is back under control, it is a priority for people to return to a normal life. The last thing that comes to minds from all walks of life is to think about what to do to prepare for the next crisis. We need three levels of action as part of a coordinated, global effort, Young says.

“One is at the state level, especially the funding agencies. They need to do this so we can plan ahead and prepare for the worst. The second level is about the robotics community. We need to work to solve problems through robotics and promote activities like the robotics challenge.

We see challenges in other situations: disasters, logistics, drones – what about the challenge of robotic infectious disease management. I was surprised and a little disappointed with myself that we hadn’t thought about it before, “shares Young.

The third level of action, according to experts, is the interaction with “front-line doctors.” The Robo industry needs to communicate with doctors as intensely as possible. For robotic systems to be efficient, secure and easy to implement, medicine must be involved in creating them.

What technology can do is help medicine be better prepared for the reaction. “For example, it’s clear that over the last few years, self-guided robots with localization and mapping have become a mature technology, so more such machines should be used in situations like the present,” Young says.

“The second area is public transport systems – can they have an element of disease prevention, using technologies to reduce the spread of disease, so blocking traffic in entire cities and regions is only necessary as a last resort?”

Social robots

Robots with a social role remain an underrated factor. At a time when many people are in isolation, loneliness becomes a serious problem. It can have a profound and serious psychological impact, especially in older and emotionally sensitive people. The worst problem is with people living alone.

“There’s one area of ​​robotics called social robotics that can also play a role,” Young says. He has been in isolation for a long time, and although he constantly communicates with colleagues, he admits he does not feel well about loneliness.

Difficult: personal integrity

According to some people, the world needs more technology during such emergencies. Others worry that companies and governments will use cameras and face recognition systems to improve surveillance and surveillance of the population.

“Some time ago, we published an article outlining the top 10 challenges for robotics in Science Robotics. One of the big challenges is related to legal and ethical issues,” says a Chinese expert. “Respect for privacy, as well as sensitivity to the rights of people and citizens – these are very, very important issues. We must act within that legal and ethical boundary. We should not use technologies that will invade people’s lives.”

Application of robotics

In order to positively influence the efforts of the robotic community, work must be applied in a targeted way. In this process, interaction with the medical profession is extremely important. Doctors, and even patients themselves, need to be involved and involved in technology development.

It is equally important to think outside the box. “We have to wonder how radically different new technologies can be developed,” Young says. “Robotics research is very useful, but we tend to look for ways to adapt the technologies already available. However, in order to make major changes, we must thoroughly rethink our research and innovation. ”

Pandemic – a challenge for robotics



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