Even as Kerala was praised highly for flattening the COVID-19 curve early and bringing down the number of cases and limiting the deaths, it continues to break new grounds in the battle against the pandemic.
On Saturday (April 25), coronavirus-infected patients being treated at the Ernakulam government medical college hospital’s isolation ward were served food, medicines and provided other medical assistance by a robot.
Donated by Malayalam actor Mohanlal’s Viswasanthi Foundation, the autonomous robot has been developed by Asimov Robotics with an aim to reduce the direct contact between COVID-19-affected patients and healthcare workers.
Developed under the Make In India initiative, the first prototype of KARMI-Bot was developed in just 15 days and after holding several talks with the district administrators and other concerned officials the robot was turned into a COVID-specific machinery, Jayakrishnan T, CEO of Asimov Robotics told The Federal.
“Our aim was to create a cost-effective model of a robot which can perform all the duties of nurses and sanitation workers inside the isolation wards, verbally converse with the patients, hand over food and medicines, and connect them with the doctors via video calls if they wish to speak,” he said.
From dispensing food, medicine, collecting trash disposed by patients, performing disinfection and enabling video calls between the doctor and patients, the project could prove to be a boon while addressing the issues of shortage of personal protective equipment kits by minimizing its use.
“The KARMI-Bot is not a standalone product. It is connected via distributed sensor network and uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to come to a decision, based on which it responds and operates,” he said.
“The robot needs to be manually configured wherein the route, its destination, map of the area, and other details need to be entered. Once configured, the robot will be able to perform all of its COVID-specific functionalities autonomously,” he added.
The robot can carry a payload of up to 25 kg and is capable of achieving a maximum speed of 1m per sec.
This innovative project was featured in the latest cover story of Forbes magazine for its vision of limiting the exposure of sanitation workers to COVID-19 treatment wards by being able to use UV-based disinfection and targeted detergent spray to incorporate contactless routine cleaning. It also facilitates contactless temperature checking and automated charger docking.
However, technology comes technical glitches and malfunctions, and Jayakrishnan and his team have made sure they fix these remotely itself.
“In case of many malfunctions or repairs, if the hospital officials inform and allow us to login into their servers, we can fix the software issues and other malfunctions without even seeing the robot,” he said, adding that the people deployed at nursing stations are provided with a mobile app to track the movements of the robot and connect to patients.
Earlier, most of such innovations used to come from China. However, with the US blaming the country for the pandemic spread, several Indian companies are now in the race to take the chance.
“US clients are specifically interested in non-Chinese products, which is an advantage for us. Our ultimate aim is to load it with features and bring the cost below Chinese competitors,” Jayakrishnan said.
Jayakrishnan said that his company is working on a similar humanoid robot as that of Sophia, namely Chhaya, who will be able to speak, understand, and express herself.
He also said that another robot is in the making which will have a more therapeutic functionary.