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Will The Increased Use Of Robots In Everyday Life Continue Even After Covid-19 Is Under Control?
April 16 Banepa.
When an earthquake and tsunami damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, the country’s robotics makers were called on to develop special units that could enter the highly toxic environment and clean up the mess.
It took six years before the robots were able to locate and remove the first melted uranium fuel cells, after a series of failures where they got stuck in debris or experienced circuit malfunctions from excess radiation. Just over a year ago, remotely controlled robots developed by Toshiba were sent in to start removing contaminated debris.
“What was the message [from Fukushima]? The technology was not mature,” said Li Tong, the CEO of Shanghai-based Keenon Robotics, which earlier this year deployed its robots into a different type of toxic environment: hospitals treating coronavirus patients.
The company deployed nearly 200 delivery robots to more than 80 front-line hospitals across China over the Lunar New Year, when the coronavirus outbreak was overloading the country’s health care system.
“This time, robots are in the front line to help human workers to deal with some practical problems,” he said.
Chinese robotics companies have seen a surge in demand for their products since the outbreak, deploying them in hospitals and other public areas to deliver food and medicine, to disinfect public spaces and to measure body temperature and help diagnose patients through questionnaires provided by doctors.
Shanghai-based Gaussian Robotics, a seven-year-old start-up, has seen high demand for its robotic cleaner which was repurposed to carry out disinfection in hospitals. The company has loaned some of its robots to hospitals at no charge during the pandemic but also saw a spike in orders from commercial customers like shopping malls.
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