Robotics to face the Health Emergency

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Author: Salvatore Corradi – FM Chairman

The New Year has just begun but the incidence of COVID-19 continues to be undoubtedly worrying. With such a critical situation in the background, each industrial sector, along with the scientific one, has done its utmost (some more, some less depending on their possibilities) to provide support and help in the fight against the virus.

A significant role was played by robotics, which thanks to the winning combination of a human mind flanked by an intelligent machine, managed to achieve surprising results. Specifically, the contribution of robotics is essential in the areas of safety, logistics (in the management of contaminated waste) and hospital care (with regard to prevention, screening and decontamination).

Further confirmation of this reality is the editorial published by the journal Science Robotics entitled “The Role of Robotics in managing public Health and infectious Diseases”, which highlights the importance of this matter in dealing with both the current pandemic and possible health emergencies of viral nature that could occur in the future.

It is clear that no one should feel “immune” to a social scourge of this magnitude, on the contrary it will only be thanks to the union of all countries on a global level and the precious contribution of the community that it will be possible to get out of this terrible condition. In this regard, news comes from different parts of the world that testify how robotic systems, not fearing contagion, are able to perform apparently simple tasks, but which have proved to be fundamental for the reduction of risks and workload of healthcare personnel.

Here are some inventions from the most disparate places that are a prime example of the usefulness of robotics: in Denmark and China, robots have been created that move independently in hospital rooms, managing to perform various tasks. The Danish robots can eliminate 99.99% of harmful bacteria and microorganisms in about ten minutes, because these machines are equipped with UV-C light that can reach even the most critical surfaces. As for the Chinese robots, they are able to screen patients using thermometers or infrared cameras or deliver meals and medicines to those in isolation. In Spain, on the other hand, trials are underway involving the use of robots to accelerate the results of laboratory tests on swabs.

A country from which very encouraging news come is Africa, in fact Natalie Raphil (founder of the South African artificial intelligence company “Robots Can Think“) witnesses the use of 3D printers capable of producing 100 masks a day to be distributed in the main hospitals from Johannesburg.
Again, engineers in Tunisia have devised an entirely online X-ray lung scanner that works through a platform that scans patients’ radiographs to track down the presence of Coronavirus.

The dramatic situation that the world is experiencing should make us reflect on how useful this engineering discipline is to assist operational personnel, without however replacing them. The time has therefore come to enhance young researchers, excellence that will allow the use of cutting-edge applications at an international level.