A visit to a hospital usually starts at the front desk, other than emergencies. In a world where human interaction has to be reduced, however, covid-19 turns upside down, a humanoid is the first point of contact in some hospitals in Bengaluru.
Built by Invento, the robotics company in Bengaluru, these humanoids are designed to hand out more sanitizers than they do. They work with visitors to collect patient information, including potential SARS-Cov-2 exposure, which causes covid-19. They are fitted with a thermal imaging system to take the temperature of a patient without stuck a thermometer in the mouth.
Invento has partnered with other start-ups to build the humanoids hospital. The contactless thermometer is from the Bengaluru AI start-up Niramai, whose core business uses computational thermal imaging to uninvasively detect breast cancer. This technology has been adapted by Invento’s humanoids Mitra and Mitri for use as thermometers.
After the patient is screened and no evidence of coronavirus occurs, the patient is printed from the humanoid and taken to the receptionist who has moved to the inner region. If there is an elevated temperature or another risk factor is detected, a second humanoid guides the patient with a different robot into the room.
In this third robot, the patient is linked to a doctor in another room or hospital through a telemedicine connection. The robot circulates the patient to assist with remote diagnosis.
Next month, more medical instruments such as a handheld ECG and stethoscope will be available to Invento and Healthians. This will also allow the humanoid to monitor patients in the wards, reducing contacts for hospital staff, said Balaji Viswanathan, Invento’s co-founder, and CEO.
There is a lot of speculation about robots delivering medicines in the country in hospitals. But Viswanathan says it will take a while to provide the right drugs to patients in an impeccable manner. What can be done immediately is to distribute food in isolated wards. Invento has a trolley robot named Spody that can be modified primarily for retail shopping.
Healthcare Needs Robots
When Invento launched a few years back, healthcare was one of its focus areas. “We went to some hospitals, but they were reluctant to use robotic technology,” said Viswanathan. The company then concentrated on using humanoids to communicate with banks. Coronavirus has returned it where it started as healthcare suddenly needed robots.
There are so many obstacles. For instance, the humanoid collecting patient information at the front end needs to be integrated with backend automation systems to make it better.
Human In The Loop
There is also the issue of robots being unintentionally blocked. Invento improvises what it terms “human in the loop.” For example, a human manager controls the robots in three or four ways to warn the robot to find a way around an obstacle. Start-up robotics companies engage in handling coronaviruses in a variety of different ways. “The Delhi police helped us fly our drones over Daryaganj and Puram,” Professor Aakash Sin says.
“The introduction of social distance would be a great challenge when the lockout opens. A mix of drones, robotics, and video analytics will help to monitor the pandemic spread,” said Sinha.
Drones are also used for public disinfection. “The difficulty in implementing the legislation on drones was a delay. With the current DGCA regulatory system, however, this has changed. Our drones have now been authorized,” says Sinha.
Because of the large workforce available, India has been gradually embracing robots and drones, but Covid-19 could change this perspective. “For many companies, minimal human interaction would become a necessity and would accelerate their adoption of robots, drones, and AI-based video analytics,” says Sinha.
The primary focus is actually on healthcare applications. Another field where robots come in is sanitization. “We have adapted our robots for wet cleaning and even for extracting spores of the virus in hospitals with sodium hypochlorite,” said Rajeev Karwal, founder of Milagrow from Gurugram.
Invento experiments with lamps produced in Germany that emit ultraviolet light at a specific coronavirus wavelength. Ultraviolet radiation can harm humans too, but lamp-fitting robots can safely disinfect unpopulated spaces.