Automated assistants

Investments in robotics have increased exponentially in recent decades. In 2019, the estimated $16.5 Billion was reached, well before the coronavirus closed down central industries. In the past, automation was blamed for the loss of jobs. However, robots have been strategically deployed to improve our lives and allow humans to focus on services that need a human touch.

Around the world, robots are used to assist healthcare workers and other personnel in a more sanitary environment. Robots from the Self Repairing Cities Project are being tested in the UK as street cleaners to help disinfect the Leeds City Center by spraying disinfectant on areas that get a lot of touch, like benches. Human sanitation workers will be less exposed to viruses if robots are used to disinfect high-touch areas like benches. Heathrow Airport uses a similar strategy, using robots that use ultraviolet light to kill germs on surfaces of bathrooms and elevators.

In May, UNDP donated five Zora robots that fight the epidemic to the Kanyinya Treatment Center in Kigali, Kenya’s capital. The robots are capable of mass screening coronavirus by monitoring coughs or taking temperatures for up to 150 patients per minute. They also keep patient records and free up the nursing staff for other tasks.

Spot, Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, was used in Singapore’s Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in May to maintain a safe distance between residents. The area could play a recorded message to remind people to keep their distance while also counting park visitors and reporting the numbers to authorities. The plan is to use the system in other parks throughout the city.

Delivery has become more and more important for people who are sheltered at home. This is true of both essentials and non-essentials. Despite the fact that companies like Parcel2Go and Domino offer contactless delivery, humans still deliver packages (or pizza!) Human drivers still have the boxes (or pizza!) New mechanical assistants can now remove this last contact.

Geely Automobile Holdings, a Chinese company, is now delivering car keys by drone. (The car is still being driven to the destination location by an individual.) DeliRo robots, from the Japanese robot company ZMP Inc., will test out delivering soba noodles to customers around Shinagawa station later this month. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, requests for deliveries have quadrupled since the lockdown started in March.

Hospitality is one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. However, innovative companies are trying to mitigate the negative economic effects through the deployment of robot helpers along with human staff. Flippy ROAR, the robot that flips hamburgers and fries, will be installed at a White Castle restaurant in Chicago in September. Flippy, a robot that flips hamburgers and fries, will be installed in a White Castle fast-food restaurant in Chicago. White Castle Vice-President Jamie Richardson stated in an interview with QRWeb, “We ,are using this tool to empower, not replace.” Flippy is used to free up staff to focus on other logistical issues, such as getting orders to the drive-through faster.

KFC is also looking for automated assistance, opening their almost contact-free Moscow location in June. After placing an order on a self-service kiosk, food is put onto a conveyor belt by a human kitchen employee. The belt delivers the food to a mechanical arm that places the meal into a cubby, which the customer has a unique code to unlock—thus eliminating all face-to-face contact between employees and restaurant goers. In January, a hotel in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, employed robots to deliver food to quarantine guests, minimizing human contact.
Automation has already been on the rise, even before COVID-19. But now that companies are looking to protect their operations from pandemics and prioritize human health, this trend is set to accelerate. This will make vital jobs safer for both employees and customers.

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