Robots programmed for COVID-19 clean-up

Robots that encourage hospital visitors to sanitise their hands will be introduced at two Adelaide hospitals, using technology adapted by robotics experts at Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering

Central Adelaide Local Health Network Executive Director of Clinical Governance, Dr Kathryn Zeitz, says the Robotemi robots will attend the entrances of the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as a proactive hygiene measure to combat the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. This has been made possible thanks to donations to The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF).

“We’re applying new technologies to tackle old problems by bringing a greater interest and visibility for people to use sanitizer dispensers,” says Dr Zeitz.

Dr Russell Brinkworth, Associate Professor of Autonomous Systems at Flinders University, says adapting the robots to make things cleaner and safer for humans was a great application of the technology.

“Bringing robots out of labs and factories to interact with people is our passion. It’s great to be able to contribute to making the hospital environment an even better place for visitors, patience and staff,” says Dr Brinkworth.

The touchless hand sanitizer station, mounted on a mobile robot, will rove around each hospital lobby and recognise human figures, advising them to sanitise their hands while simultaneously providing a convenient way for them to do so.

Mr Brandon Lu, a Flinders University engineering student who worked on the project, says: “It was fun experimenting with new technology and it was rewarding knowing that my skills were being used to do something interesting and useful since attention has recently been put onto the public health scene.

“Temi [the robot] gave me a chance to experience contributing to a real project with real customers where I could apply skills from all over my degree and produce tangible results. It was an interesting divergence from some of the theory.

“I like the initiative of using technology and autonomous robotics to assist in everyday life. I’m sure this SA Health initiative will innovate and produce more solutions that can push us towards the future of assistive and public health technology in the new COVID-normal.”

Dr Zeitz expressed great gratitude to THRF for funding the new robots and to the team at Flinders University for developing an innovative solution.

THRF CEO Paul Flynn says the Robotemi robots have been cleverly adapted by Flinders University’s College of Science and Engineering for use in a health setting.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand hygiene in hospitals is critical for the wellbeing of patients and healthcare workers,” says Mr Flynn. “These robots will add another critical step in the fight against viruses and infectious diseases.”

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