Even before the novel coronavirus became a global pandemic, those at the medical frontlines are the most at risk of catching COVID-19, making them risk their lives to guarantee both coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients are well-taken care of. Fortunately, researchers in China came up with a solution to help them: a Chinese robotic arm.
Could a Robotic Arm Help Save Medical Frontliners?
According to a report by Reuters, the researchers came from one of China's top universities, and they have designed the robotic arm to save the lives of frontliners during the coronavirus outbreak.
The robot is rather simple as it includes a space lander-style robotic arm on wheels.
However, it can perform several tasks, including taking mouth swabs from suspected COVID-19 patients, performing ultrasounds, and listening to sounds made by the patient's organs, which is typically done with a stethoscope.
All of these tasks, if done by a doctor or nurse, would require them to get close to the patient, increasing the risk of getting the virus themselves.
With the robot, the medical staff doesn't have to be in the same room as the suspected patients, which allows them to maintain social distancing and even perform other tasks at the same time.
Based on the Daily Mail, frontliners don't even have to be in the same city to operate the robotic arm, as they can control its actions remotely via laptop, and it is fitted with cameras so medics can see what it is doing.
Professor Zheng Gangtie of the Tsinghua University, the chief designer of the robot, commended the bravery of all doctors but believes that COVID-19 is too contagious.
"We can use robots to perform the most dangerous tasks," Gangtie said.
How the Robot Came to Be
The professor also explained that the idea came to him around Lunar New Year when Wuhan was just put into lockdown amid the rapid increase of coronavirus cases.
Gangtie is an engineer, wanted to do his part and contribute to the relief effort. After hearing that the medical frontliners are getting infected, he decided to gather his team and create two robotic arms with the same technology that space agencies use to build lunar explorers.
Doctors in hospitals around Beijing have trialed the robotic arms.
One of the arms is now the Wuhan Union Hospital, where doctors will start their training on how to operate it, while the other robotic arm is still at the university's laboratory.
More Robots Help Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
Besides Professor Gangtie and his team, a Beijing-based robotics company--CloudMinds--sent 14 robots to Wuhan, China, to help medical staff care for coronavirus patients, as reported by CNBC.
According to the report, the robots can measure the patients' temperatures, clean and disinfect, as well as deliver medicines, which should lessen the medical staff's interaction with COVID-19 positive patients.
Robots are also enlisted in different parts of China to disinfect the cities, such as in Shenyang, China, where there are patrol robots that take the temperatures of people and also help in disinfecting people and various places.
As reported by Business Insider, a hospital in Enzhou has even used a robot to help in the kitchen.