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How much use have Robots been in the fight against Covid-19?

The Coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, has already killed thousands round the globe, however the sheer scale of the event has seen robots deployed as assistants in a number of situations, most notably by China.  Advocates of the technology argue that AI can provide crucial assistance on many levels, according to new analysis from Professor Héctor González-Jiménez at ESCP Business School, however researchers warn that human care is still critical.

The Professor says:

“From being used to deliver medicine to patients diagnosed with Covid-19, to measuring patient’s temperatures while doctors and nurses speak to them via automation, robot potential continues to exceeded expectations across the globe.

“In China, as many civilians are quarantined in their homes, the government have also provided logistics robots to deliver medical supplies and food to homes in Wuhan.

Can we expect to see a wider use of robots and AI as the crisis deepens, and will they continue to prove useful in a global pandemic, with multiple nations on lockdown?

Professor González-Jiménez believes their use will continue, but says we should not underestimate how much humans appreciate a human face, especially in time of need, and of course, we haven’t yet seen the negative aspects of using robots in a crisis situation.  He explains:

“Despite the usefulness of robots, a sudden confrontation with a robot, without human support, may in fact further exacerbate stress and anxiety in an individual who is already going through trauma, and as well as this, people may also be overestimating robot capabilities, particularly in crisis situations.

“The appearance of such robots could actually create a false sense of hope for patients. Worse, technical mishaps in difficult terrains could even lead to further complications”.

The researchers warn that while the advantages and disadvantages of robots need to be closely monitored, recent examples from Asia indicate that when used in a careful manner, robots can be valuable partners in times of crisis – but alongside humans.  The Professor concludes:

“Compassion is something that cannot be compromised, and during this period of uncertainty, we must not underestimate the power of human care.”

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