To control the spread of infection among doctors and minimise frequent contact with covid-19 patients, hospitals across the world have been turning to robotics. AIIMS, Delhi has decided to test a 92cm tall robot called Humanoid ELF in the covid-19 wards. The robot can move autonomously and travel at speed of 2.9kmph. It can record all activities using in-built 3D and HD cameras, enable doctors and nurses to interact with patients remotely and also facilitate communication between patients and their friends and family members via its 10-inch screen.
Developed by homegrown robotics company Milagrow, the humanoid robot uses LIDAR (light detection and ranging) and SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technologies to detect objects in its path so it can avoid collision and move around freely. It has more than 60 sensors and uses open API to allow further customisations, if required. The robot runs on battery, last up to 8 hours and has an auto charge feature.
“Milagrow is very happy to support AIIMS in its effort to fight the pandemic and will work closely to develop more products based on the feedback of actual conditions. As the outbreak continues to rise alarmingly, the robots will help check the virus spread and protect the doctors, nurses and caregivers from getting infected," Rajeev Karwal, founder chairman of Milagrow said in a press statement.
In addition to the humanoid robot, AIIMS will also deploy Milagrow iMap 9, a floor cleaning robot that can move autonomously and sanitise the floors without human intervention. The robot uses sodium hypochlorite solution, as recommended by ICMR, to kill any covid-19 spores on floor surfaces. It can detect obstacles and uses real time terrain recognition technology to scan and map floors in real time.
Ever since the covid-19 outbreak, robots have been deployed in hospitals across United States, China and Italy for cleaning, disinfecting wards and assisting patients.
In India, a hospital in Jaipur is reportedly in talks with robotics companies for a robot that can deliver medicines and food to patients in isolation wards. Kochi based Asimov Robotics has built an autonomous robot which is ready to be deployed in hospitals to assist covid-19 patients.
While the current crisis makes a strong case for deployment of robots, the technology isn’t new to medical facilities in India and has been used in different areas for far more complex operations. For instance, in 2018, doctors at an Ahmedabad-based hospital remotely controlled a robot to perform a telerobotic heart surgery on patient located in Gandhinagar. Similarly, in February 2019, doctors at PGIMER Chandigarh used a robot to perform a precision surgery on a two-year-old baby born without a food pipe.