Robots to the Rescue: Amidst the New Normal

Today’s post is dedicated to the machines that have made it easier for humanity to cope with the health crisis and the new normal. Continue reading to find out more about the role of construction, clean ing and delivery robots amidst the new normal.  

Most of us can imagine that if before the pandemic, robots were maybe slowly and gradually replacing some of the jobs, now, the new social-distancing directives have prompted more industries to look into automation. In the last months, robots are on the rise in different sectors and have taken over many functions that help humans to cope with the current hardships. In this post, we will offer you an overview of the robots that have made the news recently with their loyal service.

If you have a keen interest in robotics, we also recommend reading about the potential that merging Blockchain, AI and robotics has.

Meet Spot - the Robot that Can Do It All from Patrolling to Entertainment

Spot has been a trending topic on social media for some time now. We were first introduced to Spot in 2016 when Boston Dynamics shared their newest and dog-sized quadruped robot on YouTube. In 2020, we’ve seen Spot finally in action. At the beginning of the year, Spot started to monitor Pomerleau construction site in Montreal and taking up to 500 photos per day via a 360-degree camera. Those images were later used by the project executives to track the progress of work, schedule and budget.

Spot has also tried its robot paws in the healthcare sector, by allowing the doctors and nurses to remotely triage patients. Equipped with an iPad and a two-way radio, Spot went around in triage tents and permitted the healthcare workers to speak from a safe distance with the patients suspected to have COVID-19 that were there for an initial assessment.

Since May, Spot has been working as a park guard in Singapore to remind the people about the safe distancing measures they should be following. Thanks to the GovTech-developed video analytics cameras on its back, it can also estimate the number of visitors in the park.

But we mustn’t forget that in its rebellious youth, Spot actually considered running away and joining the circus, and not any old circus, but the Cirque du Soleil itself. Even if that dream might have been on hold due to the uncertain times the entertainment group is facing, Spot sure has many talents to show.

Robots, Drones and Autonomous Vehicles for Contactless Delivery

Even if most robots aren’t as polyvalent as Spot, they have all played their important role in us adapting to the new normal. Robots are definitely on the rise within the sphere of delivery services.

Amid the lockdown, many stores and restaurants, on the one hand, and people in their homes, on the other, came to rely on home deliveries and the safest way to carry them out proved to be with the help of delivery robots and drones or autonomous vehicles that permitted doing it all contactlessly.

Delivery Robots

Delivery robots have had their wheels full of work delivering one package after another.  Starship sidewalk robots have rolled out in many new locations in the USA since March. We have seen them waiting in a line to pick up a pizza in Phoenix, delivering groceries in multiple college campuses to students following the stay-at-home order and the City of Fairfax launching the service in collaboration with Starship Technologies to connect city businesses with residents.

Not surprisingly, this sudden rise in demand has resulted in an important influx in sales. Only last week, they hit another milestone by having their biggest day on record yet.

Autonomous Vehicles (AV)

As for autonomous vehicles (AV), they also chipped in to fight the pandemic. In China, a leader in autonomous vehicle technology Baidu released 104 driverless vehicles in 17 cities across the country. They have been carrying out many important anti-epidemic tasks such as cleaning, disinfecting, logistics, and transportation.

That’s actually something that could have a long-term impact on AV development and the market that has been more focused on high-end consumer vehicles. Now that communities around the world have shifted to a more home-based living and working environment, the way we interact with goods and services has changed. And being able to do so without human interaction thanks to the AVs is more important than ever before.

Delivery Drones

Another branch of automated delivery is the drones whose Golden Age is upon us, as World Economic Forum has predicted.  In Ireland, a drone-to-door medicine delivery trial service was launched back in March. The same Manna drones will now also work for Tesco to deliver up to 4kg of shopping.

Another very heroic case of drone activity is from Ghana where they are used for delivery and collection of COVID-19 tests. Already before that, the same drone company, Zipline, had been delivering vaccines and medications to hospitals around Ghana and blood samples in Rwanda.

Drone delivery is one of the fastest delivery modules out there and has proved itself to be very useful in times of a health crisis and beyond. That’s probably why the pandemic has served as an accelerator for legislative approvals in the USA, for example.

Cleaning Robots

During the past months, disinfection practices have reached a whole another level. To cope with staff shortages, many industries have employed cleaning and disinfection robots were introduced in many hospitals. And as it happens the healthcare workers are quite smitten by the robot helpers and hope they will stay. This is the case of Violet, an autonomous ultraviolet cleaning machine that in Ireland took up the job of sterilizing the hospital’s CT scanning room. As CT scans are one of the most effective ways to diagnose COVID-19, the time that violet saved cleaning the room (15 minutes against one hour that it would take the human staff) was vital for the patients. Tullamore hospital is now expanding its trials of Violet to other spaces and is expecting many more positive outcomes.

Conclusion

We have gone over some use cases where robots have stepped up to help with social distancing. And from where we’re standing now, they have become an integral part of the new normal and put in evidence that machines will play an important role in the future. It’s no longer about the role or phenomena of robots amidst the new normal, they are the new normal.

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