The outbreak of COVID-19 has upended the lives of billions of people around the world. It has brought the world to a standstill and has impacted all sectors of the economy. The rate at which the virus is spreading is insane. Since the virus spreads through contact, it is important to practice social distancing. Various restrictions were put and almost every country was locked down in order to break the chain of the virus. Although the world is opening up little by little, the danger still persists and the fear of catching this deadly virus is intact.
A couple of months into the fight against COVID-19, the world has seen a mature populace that has largely put up a brave face not only coping with this harmful disease but also extending a helping hand. Front line warriors are risking their lives while battling this disease. They are equipped with protective gear, however, the risk of getting the virus still persists. In times like these, technology, in the form of robots, has come to the aid. Ground and aerial robots are playing a notable role.
Robots have emerged as game changers in such uncertain times. Their employment in health care, as well as public places, has decreased human contact, hence diminishing the spread of the disease. From decontaminating hospitals, public places to watching for violations of stay-at-home restrictions, robots are the contact-free alternatives every department needs today.
Let’s look at how robots are making a difference in such terrible times when the world is fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.
Role played by Robots in COVID-19
Various countries are putting robots to use in different sectors such as health care and public safety. The following are some of the many things that robots are performing.
The sudden breakout of COVID-19 has caused a surge in patients. Hospitals have become overcrowded. This has increased the burden of healthcare workers, from doctors to the cleaning staff. Coming in direct contact with patients is risky. Doctors and nurses are using robots to interact with patients from a safe distance. Robots are being used for delivering meals and prescriptions to patients. This has eased the work of health care officials and reduced the risk by decreasing the direct contact of doctors with patients. In China, UVD robots are being employed for cleaning and purifying the wards using UV lights. The UV light destroys bacteria, harmful microbes, and viruses. Robots are also being put to use for taking temperatures, measuring blood pressure, and transporting samples to labs.
2. Public Work and Safety Department:
The constraints that COVID-19 put on the entire world restricted the government as well as individuals to carry out almost all the functions. This has soared the demand for robots everywhere, which is acting as the perfect substitute. Public works and safety departments are engaging in using robots for spraying disinfectants. Aerial robots or drones are helping enforce quarantine and social distancing restrictions. Robots are proving to be better and faster. From bringing food to quarantine centers and purifying public places, robots are helping countries emerge from the coronavirus crisis.
3. Work and Home:
Stay-at-home restrictions and the fear of COVID-19 caused disruptions everywhere. Organizations, hotels, supermarkets everything was closed. Most of the countries have opened up now but people are still practicing social distancing and avoiding going out. Everyone is operating from their homes and robots are making this possible. Realtors are using robots to show properties from the safety of their own homes. In China, drones equipped with lighting made the construction of hospitals, dedicated to COVID-19, possible during the night. Not only this, in Cyprus, an individual used a drone to walk his dog when the country was under lockdown. The demand for robots for making deliveries of necessary items is increasing looking at the severity of the crisis.
Clearly, the robots are proving helpful to the world at such times. But the question here is, will robots replace the workforce? Do they have the apt abilities to combat any future pandemic?
Will Robots replace the Workforce?
We are slowly moving towards a world where AI can give intelligent answers to some of our most fundamental needs. Organizations will accept the opportunity to replace demanding, flawed individuals with machines or AI wherever possible. But let’s keep one thing in mind that robots, though more efficient than people, can not replace people completely. Human assistance is required in one way or the other for robots to be operational. They provide helpful assistance in easing up the burden to take up tasks that free up immediate responders to handle the increased workload during any crisis.
A report on the future of labor released by McKinsey predicted that automation can displace between 400 and 800 million people by 2030. However, it is important to understand that the world can not fully function with the help of robots only. As seen even today, robots being used in hospitals have not replaced health care professionals. These robots are working as a medium of contact between the doctors and patients. We need to be mindful that automation and employment are not necessarily mutually exclusive and implementing one will not rule out the other.
Robots in Future Pandemics
COVID-19 has shaken the world. Countries are using different methods to tackle the spread of coronavirus and technology has proven itself yet again. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of robots in many sectors. From disinfecting public spaces to delivering food to quarantine centers, robots are providing the most accurate assistance.
The unpreparedness of countries to deal with this kind of global crisis has taught us some valuable lessons. There is a need to develop and work on the methods that could be used if we counter a crisis like such in the future. Technology has played a vital role. Automation is providing us with solutions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Automation is not particularly exciting and has its limitations too, but the fact that it is a valuable application is indisputable. If the government has understood the importance of AI, particularly robots, in this pandemic, it will work on developing more robots to work side by side with the front line workers when the next pandemic hits. Therefore, robots, undoubtedly, have a bright future.