News, Culture & Society

COVID Robots: The New Essential Workers

Every COVID-19 death leaves roughly nine people bereaved. But the pandemic has not only caused human grief; it also imposed severe restrictions to prevent transmission. In response to these controls, machines are being used to do a variety of jobs from surgery and diagnosis to cleaning and sanitizing. Robots perform important roles during the coronavirus crisis, drastically reducing social contact, and protecting everyone in the hospital and commercial settings while improving sanitation in public and private spaces.
Maintaining Good Hygiene
Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces have never received much attention as it does now. In addition to removing dirt and extending the longevity of surfaces through waxing and polishing, virus transmission is limited by frequent cleaning, which is critical in the temporary absence of a vaccine. Indeed, hand hygiene is vital to interrupt the transmission of the virus and other forms of bacteria. “By far, the most important surface to clean is the surface of your hands! Hand hygiene is the biggest, simplest, cheapest step you can take to protect yourself from coronavirus, and most any respiratory viral illness,” says Dr. Pottinger of the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Robots are already used in hospitals, airports, hotels, and nursing homes to clean and keep public spaces safe. For example, the LightStrike robot at the San Diego hospital can rid a space of 99.99% of the COVID-19 causing virus in less than five minutes, a feat that humans can’t achieve quickly. At St. Pancras international station in London, an ultraviolet robot helps eradicate viruses, even convincing people that spaces are clean during the pandemic, while Walmart uses robots to scrub their floors. Given the increased demand for sanitation, machines are increasing staffing levels while maintaining cleanliness levels.
Limiting Human Contact
Another vital strategy in the fight against the coronavirus is to enforce social distancing. Robots are also useful workers in performing health checks on people, such as by taking temperatures and other vital stats. In South Korea, robots even distribute hand sanitizers. They perform roles that humans usually do, and companies are expanding the use of these machines to reduce the number of employees that must be physically present.
Martin Ford, a futurist says, “People usually say they want a human element to their interactions but COVID-19 has changed that.”  Fast-food chain McDonald’s is testing robots and servers, while Amazon and Walmart use them for sorting, shipping, and packing to reduce physical contact among workers.
Without a doubt, coronavirus has changed everything we do, from running a business to daily life activities. It has also opened up opportunities for automation with the use of robots to keep sanitation protocols in place and minimize human contact, two critical elements in halting viral transmission.

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