Autonomous Service Robots Provide a Helping Hand During Pandemic

Intelligent delivery robots are serving instrumental functions in the fight against COVID-19, including disinfecting services and contactless delivery of vital medications, supplies, specimens, and equipment in hospitals and clinics.


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Image credit: New Era AI Robotic


While autonomous service robots have successfully taken on package and essential item delivery, they have now been assigned their most important task yet: helping out healthcare providers in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Autonomous service robots are serving several instrumental functions in the fight against the virus. Robots can provide disinfectant services throughout a treatment center or doctor’s office and offer directions and instructions to patients and visitors in a hospital. With AI, IoT sensors, and location technology, they can also offer efficient, orderly delivery of vital medications, supplies, specimens, and heavy equipment to desired locations in a hospital or clinic. They can provide sterile, contactless methods of transport and stay on the job 24/7.

Using Advanced AI and Mapping

One solution integrator focused on technology development for robotics is New Era AI Robotic, an Intel® IoT Market Ready Solutions partner. New Era AI Robotic specializes in building smart service and smart delivery robotic solutions that include autonomous navigation, voice interaction, and facial, object, and people recognition. The robotic solutions are targeted for use in hospitals as well as in retail, hospitality, airports, banks, and factories. 

Robot rolls down hallway

Image credit: New Era AI Robotic

The feature set for New Era’s smart service robots is diverse, and includes: greetings, face detection, direction indication, mobile broadcasting, data analytics, express check-out systems, and fleet management. Its smart delivery robots offer customizable upper cabinets, can carry a payload of up to 100kg, and have integrated fleet management analytics.  

With Intel® RealSense™ technology as the auxiliary environmental sensor, the New Era AI robots are equipped with simultaneous localization and mapping techniques, which results in higher performance of autonomous indoor navigation and analysis. For use in an unmanned store, for example, the depth camera can be used to locate, identify and analyze specific levels of inventory on a store shelf.

New Era AI Robotic uses the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit for computer vision development. The toolkit enhances the algorithms in facial recognition and helps the robots have a high degree of accuracy in identifying the gender, age, and emotion of the person interacting with the robot. 

Fighting COVID-19

Recently, New Era AI Robotic has developed several different solutions specifically for helping hospitals, labs, physicians’ offices, and clinics which are treating patients with COVID-19. These include:

UVC Disinfection Robot: This solution integrates the New Era AI Robotic delivery autonomous mobile robot (AMR) and couples it with high output UVC light capabilities for disinfecting environments. According to New Era AI Robotic, with high UVC output energy, COVID-19 can be eliminated in under 30 sec when the UVC robot is placed 1 meter away from the sampling surface. 

Disinfectant Spray Robot: By integrating a spray module with New Era’s delivery AMR, the Disinfectant Spray Robot can help fight COVID-19 by disinfecting the environment. The Spray Robot uses two high pressure nozzles that are angle adjustable to spray a handrail, public seating area, and floor. It can cover an area of 300m2 in 30 minutes.

Specimen Delivery Robot: This delivery device can carry up to 100kg of load. When integrated with a cabinet with an RFID lock, the delivery AMR becomes a specimen delivery robot that can transport a specimen from a doctor to a lab without human intervention. The door can only be opened by authorized personnel to reduce the possibility of contamination.

Smart Ward Robot: Designed to help reduce the nurse workload, this robot can be remotely controlled and move autonomously from a nursing station to a patient’s room. It delivers self-care, admitting, or discharge instructions by video, followed by a questionnaire to make sure the patient fully understands. The Smart Ward Robot can also provide an interactive tour to in-patient family members to get to know the facilities. In a COVID-19 treatment center, the Smart Ward Robot can reduce the possibility of a hospital’s discharge staff member or nurse getting infected by close contact with a patient.

Mobile Temperature Sensing Robot: Using an industrial-grade, precision thermal sensor of accuracy ± 0.1℃ and high frame rate of 80Hz for fast thermal processes, this robot can move autonomously to any indoor location for quick deployment and start working immediately. The system will issue a warning/alarm when detecting visitors with a high body temperature.

Heavy Lifting in the Hospital

New Era AI Robotic has delivery AMRs in use in multiple locations around the world, including in a large medical group in Taiwan, where it provides heavy surgical instrument and equipment delivery. Using LiDAR and AI, the autonomous navigation system inside the robot provides automated indoor mapping of its surroundings. 

The robot uses Microsoft Azure cloud services and the Caffe and TensorFlow deep learning framework. The AMR uses the Intel® Xeon® processor E3 v6 product family and Intel® RealSense™ graphics and visual technology.

The robotic fleet filled a significant need at the medical group, according to New Era AI Robotic. Collectively, the medical group schedules more than 100 surgeries every day, so the necessary repetitive deliveries were taking up quite a bit of time from the medical staff. According to a New Era AI report, the changeover to robotics resulted in new efficiencies, saving the staff 16 delivery hours a day or 5,000 hours a year that the medical staff can now spend on patient care.

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