The Infonomist: Why do we need robots now?
JOHANNESBURG - The entry of robots into the mainstream has been resisted for valid reasons such as its impact on jobs.
Current health circumstances, however, should inspire a review of that perception for robots. The risk exposure by some professionals should be the main driving force behind the adoption of tools that can still carry out critical work while protecting human beings from exposure. Health professionals are high on this list of exposed professionals.
In view of this risk by health professionals, Professor Coenie Koegelenberg saw a need for robots at Tygerberg hospital and led the process of developing the robot for the Tygerberg Hospital.
The robot called Quintin has been instrumental in protecting health professionals from being exposed to patients who infect patients with a life threatening disease. The challenge, however, is that this robot - due to costs and other factors - is only operating in a single hospital and saving the lives of only a few health professionals.
Considering the number of health professionals that are contracting Covid-19, there should be more efforts towards deploying more robots in designated health institutions. Surely, health professionals can be assigned to lessor risky environments while robots are taking care of areas that are more risky.
There’s a huge need for robots in healthcare institutions. This need spreads beyond nursing to Robots could also take on tasks such as cleaning and disinfecting contaminated environments. Some of these health-care professionals can still sit behind a screen and guide the robots or use the robots as means of interaction while they are located far from a patient, who has the potential to infect the healthcare worker.
We need to build more robots such as Quintin before we loose more healthcare professionals. Another group of workers at risk are essential workers.
While it’s important to protect their jobs, it is also important to protect their lives. In the process of protecting the lives of essential workers, robots are tools that can complement workers to protect them from harm.
The current health situation facing humanity requires a mind shift from the thinking of protecting jobs at all costs and exposing people to danger.
There was a time when the adoption of robots into the mainstream society was seen as a futuristic tool and a threat. Current conditions require we overcome our fears and embrace technology as an enabler.
Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-In-Chief of the Fast Company (SA) magazine.