Rise of robot care


Villagers at Tembok Gede, Indonesia, built Delta to deliver food to self-isolating Covid-19 patients. — AFP

As the healthcare industry continues to face tremendous challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, some are turning to robots to ease their burden.

The robots’ duties vary from delivering food to patients to providing companionship, and here are the notable ones:

Feline good

Sunway Medical Centre in Selangor introduced BellaBot, an autonomous robot with cat ears, to assist with delivering meals to patients and caregivers at its paediatric ward.

According to a statement, BellaBot is built with four stacked shelves for meal trays, includes customisable delivery functions and a system for navigating safely.

BellaBot also has a “birthday mode” to entertain young patients with a song.

BellaBot delivers food to patients at the paediatric ward. — Sunway Medical CentreBellaBot delivers food to patients at the paediatric ward. — Sunway Medical Centre

Sunway Medical Centre CEO Bryan Lin said the company is finding innovative new ways to enhance patients’ experience and safety amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The potential of growth for BellaBot is vast. This is just the beginning. The advent of smart technology like BellaBot can help our staff to focus on patient care, provide ‘surge capacity’ during peak demand and improve the overall operational efficiency,” he said.

Grace under pressure

Hanson Robotics – the maker of humanoid Sophia – is planning to release Grace, a prototype robot companion with human-like features, and is designed to interact with the elderly and those feeling isolated due to the pandemic.

According to Reuters, Grace has a thermal camera in her chest for measuring a person’s temperature.

The robot uses artificial intelligence to diagnose patients and is claimed to be able to respond in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

She can also simulate the action of more than 48 major facial muscles to convey more human-like expressions when interacting with patients.

Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson believes that Grace’s ability to interact with patients will help to ease the burden of frontliners during the pandemic.

Plans are underway to deploy Grace in countries like China, Japan and South Korea next year.

Phone home with Mitra

Covid-19 patients at hospitals in India have turned to Mitra, a robot with facial recognition technology that allows them to communicate with doctors or family members through its cameras and a video screen on its chest.

Mitra, designed by Invento Robotics, can also disinfect surfaces and take questions from patients, according to a report.

Mitra is a 5ft tall robot that can assist with preliminary screenings. — AFPMitra is a 5ft tall robot that can assist with preliminary screenings. — AFP

Balaji Viswanathan, Invento Robotics CEO, said Mitra can also remind patients to take their medication.

The 5ft tall robot can also be equipped with a scanner to measure temperature and assist with preliminary screenings.

Kapil Tyagi, hospital director at Yatharth Hospital in the city of Noida, northern India, told CNN that Mitra provides a much-needed sense of companionship for patients.

“Patients get happy and positive whenever the robot visits them. They are often taking selfies with Mitra,” he said.

Meet Moxi

Healthcare workers at hospitals in Texas, United States, have the robot Moxi to thank for performing tasks such as delivering personal protective equipment, collecting Covid-19 swabs and sending them to the lab.

A report described Moxi as a one-arm robot with wheels. Its LED eyes can change from an array of blue dots to hearts when interacting with individuals.

Josh Kemph, chief operating officer at Medical City Heart Hospital and Medical City Spine Hospital, told news outlet KXAN that healthcare workers can spend more time focusing on important duties such as caring for patients, leaving Moxi to handle repetitive jobs.

“It could add maybe 10 to 15 minutes per task, and when you have Moxi running anywhere from 50 to 60 to 75 tasks during a shift – I mean it adds up quickly. So, yeah it’s hours and hours back to the staff,” he said.

Delta delivers

In Tembok Gede village in Indonesia, members of the community came together to build Delta, a robot that delivers food and other essential items to self-isolating Covid-19 patients.

Reuters reported that the robot’s head is made from a rice cooker and other items such as pots, pans and an old monitor. For the base, it uses a toy car chassis.

The robot has a 12-hour battery life and can be operated with a remote control.

When it performs deliveries, Delta greets recipients with “Assalamualaikum. Delivery is here. Get well soon.”

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