Researchers Call for Robots to Fight COVID-19

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PITTSBURGH, March 23, 2020 — Robots conceivably could perform such tasks as disinfecting surfaces, taking temperatures of people in public areas and at ports of entry, providing social support for quarantined patients, collecting nasal and throat samples for testing, and enabling people to virtually attend conferences and exhibitions, according to an editorial published in the journal Science Robotics and signed by leading academic researchers including Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute professor Howie Choset.

The editorial suggests that robots could perform some of the “dull, dirty, and dangerous” jobs associated with combating the COVID-19 pandemic, but would require several new capabilities not currently being funded or developed.

“The experiences with the [2015] Ebola outbreak identified a broad spectrum of use cases, but funding for multidisciplinary research, in partnership with agencies and industry, to meet these use cases remains expensive, rare, and directed to other applications,” the researchers wrote. “Without a sustainable approach to research, history will repeat itself, and robots will not be ready for the next incident.”

The authors of the editorial include Choset; Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Science; Robin Murphy of Texas A&M University; Henrik Christensen of the University of California, San Diego; and Steven Collins of Stanford University.

Choset said that the idea behind the editorial wasn't solely to prescribe how robots might be used in a pandemic, but instead to inspire others in the community to introduce solutions to what he called a very complicated problem.

Choset said AI, like robots, could help in responding to epidemics and pandemics. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are performing research to address humanitarian aid and disaster response. The team is looking into where these two technologies might converge, such as drones. Human-robot interaction, automated monitoring of social media, edge computing, and ad hoc computer networks are among the technologies the team is looking to develop.

Published: March 2020
Research & TechnologyrobotscoronavirusdisinfectingconferencesCarnegie Mellon’s Robotics InstituteCarnegie MellonTexas A&Muniversity of California - San DiegoStanford UniversitydronesUniversity of California, San Diego

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