A robot has been designed by Israeli engineering and health experts to replace some of the tasks of medical staff treating coronavirus patients, in order to help reduce their risk of infection. Dubbed COROBOT, the platform will initially be used in Rambam Health Care Campus’s new Coronavirus Department.
“If the robot will successfully pass its installation at Rambam, in a relatively short amount of time we will be able to build more robots for Rambam and for similar departments in other Israeli hospitals,” said Prof. Alon Wolf, academic head of the FIRST Robotics program in Israel. “Then additional FIRST Robotics groups all over Israel will join the effort," he added.
Medical professionals all over the world are in situations where they're overworked, or lack access to enough equipment such as protective masks, leading them to overexposure and likely contracting the coronavirus. Whenever a medical worker is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the entire team must self-isolate for extended periods of time, making the situation harder on the whole system.
To combat this problem, an engineering team of students and alumni of the FIRST Robotics program from the Reali School in Haifa, led by Prof. Gil Yudilevitch of the Technion Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, have designed a robot to lighten the load that medical staff have to deal with, reducing their exposure and thus their risk of infection from the virus. The COROBOT is operated remotely by medical staff using a joystick or smartphone app, with the help of attached video cameras. The first prototype can take on tasks such as movement of medication, food or equipment to and from the coronavirus department.
“In the next stage the robot will incorporate a communication system that will include a screen, camera, microphone and speaker, and will be able to move from patient to patient and transmit information to the medical staff in real time,” said Yudilevitch, leader of the engineering team. “I hope that in the future we will add features that will help with the actual treatment, such as sensors that will check patients’ pulse rates and blood oxygen levels," he added.
You can watch the robot in action here:
Director General of the Rambam Health Care Campus, Prof. Michael Halbertal, struggled with the problem of medical staff becoming infected since the opening of the hospital's coronavirus department. This led him to approach several experts such as Prof. Rafael Bayer, his predecessor, and Prof. Wolf, who is also a renowned robotics expert and the Technion Vice President for External Relations and Resource Development. Yudilevitch then joined the effort together with profs. Ezri Tarazi and Reuven Katz.
In less than one week, the team was able to build a robot that fit to both Rambam's requirements and the Health Ministry's guidelines, according to Dr. Ben Dov, principal of the Reali School, who was approached by Wolf to join the team.
"Kudos to the high school students and the FIRST Robotics alumni – some who are in the army, some who are Technion students, and others who have been laid off from work during the coronavirus crisis – and of course to the parents who became involved and are supporting this essential project," he said.