Robotics Used for Fighting Coronavirus Spread in South Korea

Using robotics for corporates tasks is not a new practice in South Korea and many companies have been employing robots mainly for a range of activities from manufacturing products to sweeping floors. However, Reuters reported that companies have updated their machines to help assist to maintain preventive measures of the employees in the offices or workplaces that would curb the spread of COVID-19.

Corporates’ Robots for Fighting Coronavirus Spread

Sources told Reuters that a self-driving robot equipped with cameras and an LED screen was not only greeting visitors at the lobby in the headquarters of South Korea’s leading mobile operator, SK Telecom Co Ltd (SK telecom) but also checking their temperature, dispensing hand sanitizer, and disinfecting the floor. A white robot politely reminded three SK Telecom employees who stand chatting nearby, “Please take part in social distancing.”

The robot, which is developed jointly by SK Telecom and Omron Electronics Korea, acts as an industrial automation solution provider that transmits data to its server in real-time and is powered by the telecom company’s fifth-generation (5G) technology. The robot automatically sets off an alarm if anyone’s temperature is over 37.5 Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit) while using artificial intelligence (AI) it can detect gatherings and advise people to disperse.

SK telecom officials stated that it reminded those people who were not wearing masks to put one on and since the robot was armed with ultraviolet lamps and two disinfectant sprayers, it could disinfect 99% of 33 square meters (355 square feet) of surface area in 10 minutes.

Employing Robots in South Korea Businesses

Since the virus has infected more than 11,000 people and killed 269, the South Korea government put concerns to transform an intensive social distancing into what the government called “distancing in daily life”. Ra stated, referring to the use of robots in curbing virus spread, “The robot helps minimize people-to-people contact and reduce the time that’s taken for temperature checks at the entrance, and the AI technology raises accuracy.”

Lim Yeon-june, an employee of SK Telecom, expressed, “It felt a bit strange when I first saw the robot but I realize it can raise awareness about distancing and also improves accuracy in temperature checks.” However, Ra clarified that the developers added a function to hide faces mirrored on the screen to protect people’s privacy.

Woowa Brothers, the country’s top food delivery app owner, began a pilot operation for a self-driving delivery robot last month. An official of the company said, “We’ve been testing delivery robots since last year and are seeking to adopt them at the offices, hotels, and residential complexes as more people find robots to be useful amid the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing.”

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