Can Robots Save the Pandemic?

written by Genevie Hong and edited by Bianca Kamath

You may have heard of Sophia the robot, the first-ever android to become a “robot citizen” in 2017. The renowned humanoid robot, Sophia, first activated and created by David Hanson, founder, and chief executive of Hanson Robotics, an engineering company based in Hong Kong, shocked the world in 2016 with her incredibly realistic human features. Similar to a human, Sophia the robot can speak, listen and talk. She even has emotions of her own which can be shown through her many facial expressions. She is also capable of tracking faces, maintaining eye contact, and recognizing people. According to David Hanson, “the robot is designed to get smarter over time.”

This pandemic has opened the doors for many technologies and AI opportunities, one of them being the development of new roles for robots. David Hanson states that “The world of Covid-19 is going to need more and more automation to keep people safe.” He states that humanoid robots can be used to help those affected by the pandemic such as providing company for individuals who are socially isolated and lonely or assisting healthcare workers.

Hanson Robotics is preparing to launch a large-mass of human robots to help relieve the current pandemic. So far, they have created four models, and the main one launching this year goes by the name of Grace. Grace is specifically designed to assist in the healthcare sector, in which she is to care for the elderly, collect biodata, and detect early signs of illnesses such as dementia. By interacting with humans, Grace learns to mimic the person and gradually self-improve. The other models that the company plans to make would be used in retail shops and airports as well. By mid- 2021, they hope to sell thousands of androids.

Robots are quite common in China. During the peak of the pandemic, other robots such as Violet (also known as the “disinfectant robot”), were commonly staffed in hospitals to assist healthcare workers. Additionally, another company called CloudMinds established a robot-led field hospital in Wuhan, in which they sent fourteen robots to help provide additional care for patients. One particularly useful robot was the delivery robot, which was used to deliver drinks, food, and medicine without direct physical contact. Robots have the ability to save lives, as they are incredibly beneficial, especially in times like this. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be outnumbered by robots.

Sources:

Cover Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

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