Israeli-built robot helps care for those in quarantine
The artificially intelligent machines can take a patient's temperature and diagnose some symptoms, updating doctors with the latest results.
In recent days, the world has been socially distancing itself. Terms like "flattening the curve" have become part of the common lexicon. And working from home has, for the time being, become the new normal.
It's at times like these when we could all use something like Rosie the Robot from "The Jetsons" to check in on loved ones. Well, thankfully, such a gadget exists. Israeli startup Robotemi has invented an artificially intelligent robot that can take the temperature of sick patients and, thanks to its two-way camera, allows for doctors and loved ones to visit with a patient. The device – which is about 3 feet tall and maneuvers around on wheels – has already been deployed throughout a handful of Asian countries at nursing homes and hundreds of other locations. In New Rochelle, N.Y. – one of the first American cities to experience a mass outbreak of the coronavirus – the robot has been helping school children in quarantine stay in touch with those outside their home.
Yossi Wolf, who graduated Tel Aviv University with a degree in physics, came up with the idea for the device – nicknamed Temi – on a trip to visit his grandmother. Spending an afternoon with her, he noticed how shaky her hands were and how difficult it was for her to hold a cup of tea. He then watched her try to operate her smartphone – she had trouble with that, too. At that moment, Wolf decided to devote his life to creating Temi for her. He soon raised nearly $100 million to launch and expand his company. The robot is now available to public and can be purchased on Amazon for just under $2,000.
Time Magazine named it one of the best inventions of 2019, explaining that "while Temi can also play music, take photos, play games and answer questions, the robot’s engineers say its most important mission is to help people stay connected." Wolf told the magazine, “I knew that the telecom value would bring happiness and reduce loneliness."
The robot has a multitude of uses – helping people stay in touch with loved ones far away, as well as operating as an assistant in offices and retail stores.
The pivot to telehealth – a growing field, especially during a crisis like the coronavirus outbreak – was a natural outgrowth of the work already being done for the senior citizen demographic by the R&D team in Israel. It allows doctors to check in on multiple patients in different locales, and helps protect medical professionals from potentially being exposed to the disease themselves.
Temi is not the only robot that has been called into duty during this time. A team of researchers at China's Tsinghua University have designed a robot that could help protect medical workers from getting infected by COVID-19. The robotic arm on wheels can conduct temperature checks, collect mouth swabs, perform ultrasounds and even deliver medicine to patients. Doctors can observe the procedures through the robot's cameras and control its actions. Other robots have been designed to help janitorial staff clean facilities.
Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips of the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Wash., used a robot from California-based InTouch Health to help treat some of the first cases of the coronavirus in America. “Caregivers provide care within the isolation unit, but technology is allowing us to reduce the number of up-close interactions,” she told Forbes. "Minimizing the spread of this new virus is especially important because we have not yet built up any immunity to it."
Dr. Ran Nir-Paz, an infectious disease expert at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, knows about the coronavirus firsthand. In February, he helped look after some of the patients from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which experienced a mass outbreak of the disease. He himself recently emerged from quarantine. "Robots are nice tools, but you need to have the man behind the machine to deal with the human patients," Nir-Paz told From The Grapevine. "It can help, but we still need to have the human touch."
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