The Robot and human in picture

The Pandemic and Robots

The Coronavirus Pandemic has shadowed the world, and has brought it to a stand-still. Threatening lives at every walk, way around this pandemic has been the pressing question. Even after months of precautions, the virus is out at large; threatening humanity’s way of life. Amid this crisis was another way of life rising, which most people have forgotten about; the robots!

The rise of robots was long-anticipated, however, the Coronavirus pandemic has made that a sure point. For good or for the worse, analysts have predicted that the robots will soon replace many humans in their jobs.

People generally prefer for a human element to their interactions, but that is widely going to change given the circumstances.

“COVID-19 is going to change consumer preferences and really open up new avenues for automation”, says Martin Ford who is a futurist and has written about how the robots will be integrated in the world economy in the following decades.

It is not a surprise now that social distancing will be with us for quite a few years. It may also turn into a regular practice. Small and large companies will be revising their safety guidelines around the same lines. Some of the companies are expanding on how they will bring social distancing into practice with robots and reduce the number of people who will have to check-in to work physically.

Let us have a look at a few industries that will put robots to use heavily in Pandemic

Healthcare Industry

The deadly COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. The nature of the virus is such that humans have no immunity to it; which gives the virus an opportunity of infecting anyone in contact leading to extreme illness or even death. Medical facilities, in this case, remain the prime environments for exposure leaving the medical professionals at high risks.

COVID-19 is going to change consumer preferences and really open up new avenues for automation.

Martin Ford

This risk of medical professionals can be reduced by simply reducing the number of interactions they have with the infected. This is where the robots can have a huge impact. Robots are being used to scan the patients with potential symptoms, instead of risking personnel. With this, the routine observations like temperature checks are also being carried out using the mobile robots. Dispensing medicines is another task that has been handed over to the robots, which leaves the nurses free to attend other important things.

While robots are being used to perform the simple duties of doctors and nurses, it has helped them to perform other high priority duties first and has also increased their efficiency. Doctors and nurses are now able to use their energy and capability for the tasks that need it the most. It is a win-win situation, as the use of robots is increasing the capabilities of the medical professionals while also reducing their risk of infection.

But these are not the only tasks robots are performing. Some of the very common chores like taking out trash, cleaning the rooms and disinfecting the area can also spread the infection. These tasks are also being undertaken by the robots which has reduced the exposure of infection to the medical workers.

In the times of Covid-19, where even the slightest toe outside the line can be a matter of life and death, deployment of the robots, especially in the medical facilities has not only improved the capabilities of the medical facility, but also reduced the health risk of the doctors as well as the patients.

The Supply Chains Industry

The COVID-19 has struck the whole world, with an urgency of most of the manufacturing and supply chain industries to shut down. But as we trod upon this emergency, albeit with precautions, many manufacturers are looking towards robotics technology with a hope! With robots already being employed in the health and security measures, manufacturing and supply chain open up as new opportunities for operations.

Some of the big players in the manufacturing industry like GE, Honda, Ford, and General Motors have also shut their plants to ensure worker safety. This emergency has re-established the organizations’ faith in the use of robotics. Resultantly, even with the constraints in the budget due to the pandemic, businesses have been reviewing robotics as a profitable long-term investment.

If we look at it, robots were already being used in the industries, for some of the explicit and repeatable tasks, for which they were decisively programmed. Working on these lines, ware-house trained robots may be employed, that will carry the truck from aisle to aisle where humans can pick things.

Will the industries now train their employees, or will they simply program them?

A Question needs to be answered.

This pandemic has brought to our attention the delicate nature of this globalized supply chain industry. Industry robots that can be effectively programmed could help overcome the complexities.

Some Other Instances of Robots at Work

Robots have taken over human jobs, while prominently in the medical and manufacturing industries, here are some of the other areas where robots are seen at work. For example-

Labor-replacing robots are now put to use for floor cleaning at grocery stores and also sorting at the recycling centers. Companies like PayPal and machine driven content monitoring platforms like YouTube are now relying on chatbots for customer service.

Students’ graduation being moved from large arenas to houses is another instance where AI was used in a different way. The Robotic telepresence platforms in Japan provided the students with an “in-person” college graduation experience.

The ABB robots in Spain were reprogrammed by Nagami Design to produce masks.
The Center for Advanced Aerospace Technologies, FADA-CATEC and Airvant also stepped up by designing an aerial robot that would disinfect the logistics areas.

Another instance was in Germany where a Pepper robot was used in the supermarkets, reminding people to maintain social distancing and other precautionary measures in the difficult times of COVID-19.

Because of the closing of the schools, EdumotiveLab in Greece showed the students how to keep learning to use and program robots at home.

After COVID-19-

COVID-19 has changed our way of live for a long time in the future. Even after the vaccine is developed, returning to how it was would be a mammoth of a task, impossible in some cases. Our interactions and experiences with robots is bound to make it easy to normalize automation as a part of our daily lives. (Ha! Who would have imagined?)

During this pandemic, the companies that have replaced their human workers with robots might think it unnecessary to go back to how it was, and continue using robots. A robot cashier at supermarkets will not be a new thing to the customers who have interacted with them during this time. You might not even notice how easily the robots will have replaced the human workers. Sanitizers, masks and social distancing will still be the part of the daily check-list.

Because technology has played such a huge role during this pandemic, we as a society have not questioned what type of jobs the robots will be taking over. If technology (robots) means a healthy life, a nearly Covid-19 free life, then our trust in it will only increase.

Before the pandemic, robots in workplace was a far-fetched idea. Humans can do what robots will do, was a general idea. But after the pandemic, here is a question we might find ourselves asking,

Will the industries now train their employees, or will they simply program them?


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