SHANGHAI: Researchers at one of China's top universities have designed robots that they say can help save lives at the forefront during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This machine consists of a robotic arm on wheels that can do ultrasounds, take mouth swabs and listen to the sounds made by a patient's organs, usually done with a stethoscope.
Such tasks are usually performed by a doctor directly. But with this robot, which is equipped with a camera, medical personnel do not need to be in the same room as the patient, and can even be in a different city.
"Doctors are all very brave," said Tsinghua University Professor Zheng Gangtie, chief robot designer. "But this virus is too contagious ... We can use robots to do the most dangerous tasks."
The idea came to Zheng around the turn of the Chinese New Year. Wuhan has just been locked out and the number of cases and deaths is increasing rapidly every day.
As an engineer, Zheng wanted to do something to contribute to the relief effort. On the first day of the Chinese New Year, he heard from his friend, Dong Jiahong, executive president at Beijing's Tsinghua Changgung Hospital, that the biggest problem was infected frontline workers.
Gathering the team, Zheng began working on changing two mechanical robot arms with the same technology used on the space station and the moon explorer. The robots are almost completely automatic, and can even sterilize themselves after taking action that involves contact, Zheng said.
Zheng wanted to build more robots like that but funding from the university had run out. The robot costs RMB500,000 (US $ 72,000) to make. He did not plan to commercialize his robot design but hoped a company would come to pick it up.
China has sent tens of thousands of medical workers to the distribution center, Hubei province, state media said. More than 3,000 medical workers were infected at the end of last month, including leaked secretary Li Wenliang, whose death in early February triggered a brief outpouring and anger that is rare on Chinese social media.