As robotics providers around the world strive to meet the demand for assistive, disinfection, and logistics robots during the novel coronavirus crisis, some companies in China have reported their initial successes. Last week, industrial Internet provider Cheetah Mobile Inc. and service robot firm Beijing Orion Star Technology Co. announced metrics from the deployment of the Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robot. It has been used in more than 30 hospitals, transportation centers, and shopping malls in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, as well as in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, and Qingdao.
“Our smart service robots are typically seen in other scenarios, such as public service centers, schools, and hotels, amongst others — servicing nearly 30 million people in total and processing as many as 1 million speech-based reception interactions per days,” stated Fu Sheng, CEO of Cheetah Mobile. “We are so glad we could quickly deploy them for hospital use to help combat COVID-19. The success of using advanced technologies to help humans perform in their jobs in a more efficient, and most importantly, safe, manner, is unprecedented and represents the future of healthcare.”
Three Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control models
Cheetah Mobile and OrionStar have created “smart service robot family,” but it did not include a product for epidemic prevention and control.
“It will normally take one to two months for development of such product, but the OrionStar team worked overtime during the Chinese New Year and constantly communicated with the medical staff about the actual pain points in their daily work,” Cheetah Mobile representatives told The Robot Report. “[The service robots’ functions were] upgraded in just two days to achieve remote consultation and basic hospital reception, and the deployment of epidemic prevention and control information was also completed quickly. This is also the reason why the OrionStar intelligent outbreak prevention and control robot has been delivered just after the Wuhan Vulcan Mountain Hospital was built.”
OrionStar said that three types of the Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robots are equipped with its Orion Star Robot OS. The Smart GreetBot guides the way for patients, does remote ward rounds, and pre-diagnoses fevers.
The Smart ThermoBot conducts no-contact temperature measurement, has a mask detection and alert system, and offers a telepresence option for safe communication, said Beijing-based OrionStar. It can also provide guidance to hospital visitors.
Smart DeliverBot delivers medication, test reports, and medical waste, reducing repetitive manual labor. It also has several other functions using natural voice communication, facial recognition, and hospital navigation.
The Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robots also help guide preliminary diagnosis and treatment, primary disclosure of medical information, and fixed-point delivery of medical supplies, said the partner companies. The outbreak prevention and control program aims to reduce medical staffers’ workloads and reduce the risk of cross-infection.
Hospital personnel have used the robots to help them communicate and remotely perform routine examinations. Given the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, as well as the importance of protecting medical staffers, the robots are able to provide much needed help to doctors and nurses while minimizing their exposure to COVID-19, said OrionStar, which also provides software and services.
Metrics for Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robots
The robots have been deployed to hospitals including Peking University Shougang Hospital, Beijing Haidian Hospital, Wuhan Vulcan Mountain Hospital, Qingdaao Haici Hospital, and Zhengzhou’s Xiaotangshan Hospital.
“We were under huge pressure two weeks ago, when we first admitted eight patients infected with the coronavirus,” said Zhang Fuchun, superintendent at Beijing Haidian Hospital. “The dilemma before was that you wanted to spend more time with patients, but more time means more risk. Now we speak through Cheetah Robot easily for half an hour or an hour, the patients are no longer anxious; neither are we.”
According to Cheetah Mobile and OrionStar, the Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robots interact with patients more than 2,000 times during the course of a day, 92% of which are voice interactions. The robot completes more than 100 deliveries per day, and the delivery distance is more than 10,000 meters (6.2 mi.), which reduces pressure on workers as well as the risk of cross-infection.
The Smart ThermoBot can measure body temperature in public places without contact and with an accuracy of ±0.3℃. At a subway station in Xiamen, with an average daily flow of 13,000 people, the robot’s temperature detection speed reached 5 people per second, and the temperature response time was milliseconds, said the partners. The Smart ThermoBot, which is widely used in public spaces, conducted nearly 40,000 measurements in a day.
Service robots demonstrate value, say partners
The robots use artificial intelligence to follow human instructions and efficiently collect, store, and transmit data, photos, and videos concerning health barometers, including body temperature measurements, said the companies. In addition, the systems reduce exposure risks to healthcare workers.
Service robots have lagged behind factory and warehouse automation, but relieving pressure on critical workers during the initial and second waves of infection have proven their value, said Cheetah Mobile and OrionStar.
The Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robots can provide telemedicine, directional guidance, and materials handling services around the clock, they said. Such applications are likely to continue beyond the pandemic. The companies cited the combination of capabilities such as “contactless processing” and remote consultation, voice control and facial recognition, and customizable platforms as advances.
Cheetah Mobile, which is among OrionStar’s investors, also noted that digitization of diagnosis and treatment provide examples of how automation can accelerate clinical decision-making and improve the quality of care. “At the airport, service robots can provide passengers with intelligent epidemic prevention, answers to questions, and fever self-examination and consultation,” it said.
Cheetah Mobile looks beyond pandemic
The rapid and large-scale deployment of the Smart Epidemic Prevention and Control Robots could help China deal with post-pandemic challenges, said Cheetah Mobile. “It is our greatest wish to reduce the infection of medical staff [and] use the power of artificial intelligence for epidemic prevention and help enterprises for work resumption,” said the company.
“After this outbreak, many aspects of the society may be reconstructed. Economists lowered China’s economic growth expectations,” said the company. “The responsibility of Cheetah Mobile does not stop at the epidemic. Cheetah Mobile and its subsidiaries, as a technology company sticking to its dreams, make a good connection between technology and applications, so that hard-core products and services can quickly play a role in future public events and emergencies.”
“In the future, more AI technology, robots, and big data services can be invested in public services and household services, so that the intelligent and data upgrade of public services and life services can help more people and become a reliable infrastructure in life,” said Cheetah Mobile.