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Using a robotic 'arm on wheels' to fight coronavirus

Video credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 5, 2020 - Duration: 01:38s

Using a robotic 'arm on wheels' to fight coronavirus

Researchers in China have developed a robot which they hope will help doctors who are working with coronavirus patients on the frontlines.

Gloria Tso reports.

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Using a robotic 'arm on wheels' to fight coronavirus

A robotic arm on wheels could be a critical tool in the fight against the coronavirus.

The robot can perform mouth swabs, take your temperature, and even listen to your heartbeat.

Doctors don't need to be in the same room.

They could even control it from a different city.

That's according to the robot's designer, Tsinghua University Professor Zheng Gangtie.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) TSINGHUA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND CHIEF (TECHNICAL) DESIGNER OF ROBOT, ZHENG GANGTIE, SAYING: "Doctors are very brave, but this (virus) is just too contagious.

So using robots to perform the most dangerous tasks, especially now since the situation abroad is getting similar, is actually very important.

The idea came to Zheng around the start of Chinese New Year.

By then the outbreak had already gotten very serious, and many health workers were getting infected.

Several have even died from the virus.

The robots use the same technology as space stations and lunar explorers.

Initially, they worked almost entirely on their own.

They could even disinfect themselves after interacting with patients.

However, Zheng soon learned that robots cannot replace doctors.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) TSINGHUA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND CHIEF (TECHNICAL) DESIGNER OF ROBOT, ZHENG GANGTIE, SAYING: "The feedback from doctors was that it would be best not to be fully automated because there must be a person there next to the patient to comfort and calm them." Professor Zheng says one robot is already in Wuhan, the outbreak epicenter.

Doctors there will get robot training and if all goes to plan, it will help with real virus patients starting this week.

Zheng said he would like to build more robots, but the funding from the university has run out.

Their cost, at more than 70,000 dollars apiece, could be a reason why.

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