In healthcare as in many industries, robots have typically been tethered to a fixed place. For example, surgical robots used in an operating room or prescription-dispensing robots used in a pharmacy. Now, robots are moving freely through hospital spaces and in the community. It’s a big leap.
The ability for robots to move has become highly important in this era of decided distance. When distance is mandatory to keeping humans safe, robots can help by performing physical tasks, such as delivering supplies and checking temperatures. Robots are even helping to enforce social distancing measures. In the wake of a spike on COVID-19 cases, officials in Singapore piloted use of Boston Dynamics’ robot dog to patrol public areas, broadcasting a pre-recorded reminder about the importance of maintaining physical distance.1
Imposed distance can lead to mental health issues, such as loneliness, among the most vulnerable populations. Robots can help with that, too. Human-size robot “Stevie” has been programmed to lead singalongs, tell stories and call bingo numbers, helping to boost morale and reduce feelings of isolation for those in group care settings in the US and UK.2