Combating COVID-19—The role of robotics in managing public health and infectious diseases

Combating COVID-19—The role of robotics in managing public health and infectious diseases

COVID-19 may drive sustained research in robotics to address risks of infectious diseases.

CITRIS People and Robots Director Ken Goldberg is one of multiple authors of an editorial published March 25, 2020 in Science Robotics. Excerpts from the editorial follow. To read the full text, follow the link below.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has now become a pandemic. The new coronavirus has affected nearly all continents; at the time of writing, South Korea, Iran, Italy, and other European countries have experienced sharp increases in diagnosed cases. Globalization and increasingly interconnected economies mean most countries will be affected by COVID-19. Global effort is therefore required to break the chains of virus transmission.

“Could robots be effective resources in combating COVID-19? Robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls. As epidemics escalate, the potential roles of robotics are becoming increasingly clear. During the 2015 Ebola outbreak, workshops organized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation identified three broad areas where robotics can make a difference: clinical care (e.g., telemedicine and decontamination), logistics (e.g., delivery and handling of contaminated waste), and reconnaissance (e.g., monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines). Many of these applications are being actively explored in China, although in limited areas and many as proofs of concept. Frontline health care practitioners are still exposed to the pathogen with direct patient contact, albeit with protective gear. The COVID-19 outbreak has introduced a fourth area: continuity of work and maintenance of socioeconomic functions. COVID-19 has affected manufacturing and the economy throughout the world. This highlights the need for more research into remote operation for a broad array of applications requiring dexterous manipulation—from manufacturing to remotely operating power or waste treatment plants.”

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Photo: Claudio Furlan/LAPRESSE via AP