As medical professionals look to combat COVID-19—the disease that’s catalyzed countrywide lockdowns and ludicrous panic behavior across the world—the key goal is, of course, to stop it from spreading. But while thorough hand washing and quarantining certainly helps, there’s always risk of infection, especially amongst frontline hospital workers. A COVID-19 field hospital in China may have a solution for that problem though, as it’s staffed by robots that can’t get sick and are easily disinfected.
Futurism picked up on the field hospital staffed by robots, which has been constructed inside of the Hongshan Sports Center in Wuhan. As most people know by now, Wuhan is ground zero for COVID-19, and the field hospital in Hongshan Sports Center is a temporary safeguard in case of another outbreak, as it is now the temporary home of numerous hospital beds.
According to a CNBC report, the field hospital in the Hongshan Sports Center has been dubbed a “Smart Field Hospital” and is an endeavor being undertaken by the Wuhan Wuchang Hospital, the telecom behemoth China Mobile, and Softbank-backed start-up, CloudMinds Technology. CNBC notes that other robots suited for hospital use are also being sent to China, such as disinfecting robots from Denmark-based, UVD Robots, although it’s unclear if any of these have ended up in the Hongshan Sports Center.
A gymnasium, an exhibition center and a cultural building complex in Wuhan will be turned into temporary hospitals; 3,400 beds will be added to take in #coronavirus patients with mild symptoms https://t.co/866zckBLWq pic.twitter.com/aFf40QQxmK— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) February 4, 2020
The robots that have been supplied for the Smart Field Hospital by CloudMinds may look familiar, as they frequently pop up at conventions, and have the kind of adorable robo-faces that are hard to forget. CloudMinds has reportedly sent modified versions of its XR-1 robots (unmodified example in the tweet immediately below), which have been specifically altered to better suit their newest hospital milieu. On top of that, CloudMinds has sent “Smart Transportation Robots” that are able to carry food and medicine to patients without the need for person-to-person contact.
Along with the robots, the Smart Field Hospital has also deployed various IoT (Internet of things) devices that help to monitor patients and mitigate the threat of infection. CNET reports that 5G-powered thermometers take people’s temperatures at the field hospital’s entrance and smart rings and smart bracelets measure patients’ heart rates and blood oxygen levels while they’re under care. Human workers on staff also wear smart devices to help warn of infection. (The robots are controlled remotely by people via a “gamified control platform.”)
Fortunately, the Smart Field Hospital is currently on standby, rather than in full operation mode, as China has been able to, in effect, halt the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks—it’s even being reported that pockets of residents in Wuhan are finally beginning to resume normal life again.
The creation of a smart field hospital is just one of the areas of technological experimentation that have been explored during this pandemic. Researchers in the U.S., for example, have been utilizing an online video game to help identify proteins that may neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19, and engineers in Italy have been 3D printing vital medical device components on the fly in order to meet shortages.
What do you think about this “Smart Field Hospital” in Wuhan, China? Do you think this is the future of medical care, or is there simply no replacement for human touch? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!