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Scientists Elaborate on Opportunities and Challenges for Infectious Diseases Combating Robotics

April 19, 2021      Author:

On March 31st, Academician Yang Guangzhong of SJTU Institute of Medical Robotics and another 14 robotics experts from China, U.S., U.K., Switzerland, Netherlands, and Germany published an important review article titled “Progress in robotics for combating infectious diseases” in Science Robotics, a top journal in robotic study. Taking a comprehensive look at the global situation of COVID-19, this article reviews the world’s major infectious diseases since the 21st century and discusses the development direction of robotics and automation technologies for infectious diseases in detail. It elaborates on the importance of innovation and problem-oriented approach, stresses the interaction between people and technology, draws attention to possible ethical risks and calls for full engagement by all countries.

The COVID-19 in early 2020 caught people all over the world by surprise, and recovery is likely to be a long process. This review summarizes the basic requirements of robotics and automation technologies for infectious disease management and outlines different scenarios in which robots are used, including disease prevention and monitoring, clinical care, laboratory automation, logistics, and maintenance of socioeconomic activities. The article proposes that the development of new types of robots will face special challenges. The new generation of robots should be application-oriented, reliable, safe and quickly deployable when needed. The article also addresses ethical challenges and appeal to the world for continuous research and study in robots with higher adaptability in future emergencies.

 

Clinical needs

 

Biosafety, decontamination, adaptability, duration, and capacity are the five requirements for robots in dealing with infectious diseases. Figure 1 shows how the robotic and automation technology for infectious diseases play its role when epidemic emerges by attending to the clinical needs of patient management, public demand, laboratory workflow and testing.

Fig. 1 Robotics and automation technologies for infectious diseases

 

Open challenges

 

Technology is playing a central role in responding to epidemics from the lesson of Ebola in 2015 and the current COVID-19. But so far, most of the applied technologies have not been specifically designed for infectious diseases on a scale as we have witnessed and experienced in COVID-19. Although the technology applied in current robots is highly developed, there are still many open technical challenges that need to be solved. Figure 2 shows some of the important topics including applications, technologies, and grand challenges.

Figure 2 Open challenges for robotics against infectious diseases

 

 

Author: Zhang Yue

 Source: School of Biomedical Engineering, SJTU

Translated by Zhang Yue

Proofread by Xiao Yangning

 

 

ABSTRACT

The world was unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, and recovery is likely to be a long process. Robots have long been heralded to take on dangerous, dull, and dirty jobs, often in environments that are unsuitable for humans. Could robots be used to fight future pandemics? We review the fundamental requirements for robotics for infectious disease management and outline how robotic technologies can be used in different scenarios, including disease prevention and monitoring, clinical care, laboratory automation, logistics, and maintenance of socioeconomic activities. We also address some of the open challenges for developing advanced robots that are application oriented, reliable, safe, and rapidly deployable when needed. Last, we look at the ethical use of robots and