Skip to Main Content

Strategic Business Insights (SBI) logo

The Ascent of Robots during the Pandemic P1510 June 2020

Author: David Strachan-Olson (Send us feedback.)

Current lockdown and social-distancing measures are expanding opportunities for service robots.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

The global coronavirus-disease-2019 (covid-19) pandemic and social-distancing measures are changing the way that businesses and societies function. As part of this change, researchers and companies are becoming increasingly interested in using robots to perform a variety of tasks. In a recent article, an international team comprising researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai, China) and several other institutions discusses the important roles that robotics could play during the current and eventual pandemics. The team highlights that workshops that two science agencies of the US government hosted in 2015 identified three areas in which robotics can have a positive effect during an outbreak: clinical care (including decontamination and telepresence for doctors), logistics (including transportation of contaminated waste), and reconnaissance (including monitoring of people's following quarantine guidelines). The team argues that the current pandemic has added a fourth area: continuity of work and socioeconomic functions. According to the team, the pandemic's effects on manufacturing and commercial activities around the world justify more research into remote operation and its applications. Robotics companies are already making progress in this area.

Blue Ocean Robotics (Odense, Denmark), YouiBot Robotics Co. (Shenzhen, China), and several other companies are building robots that use ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect surfaces. The robots autonomously maneuver through environments, shining UV light on surfaces to damage the genetic material of viruses and bacteria. Since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, shipments of UV-disinfection robots to hospitals and health-care facilities have increased significantly.

Because of the covid-19 pandemic, companies are also starting to leverage automated vehicles and robots in logistics applications for contactless delivery. For example, Alibaba Group Holding (Hangzhou, China) and other online retailers in China have ordered hundreds of autonomous delivery vehicles from Neolix Technologies Co. (Beijing, China). The vehicles are seeing use in China to transport medical supplies while spraying disinfectant onto streets. And ZhenRobotics (Beijing, China) is seeing a large increase in demand for its small autonomous ground robots. Various companies are using one of ZhenRobotics' robots to deliver drugs and food, and a mall in Shanghai, China, is using one of the company's robots to identify bare-face shoppers and remind them to put on a mask.