Robots Rise to Battle Against Coronavirus
March 24, 2020
They are known as “Little White Snails,” self-driving street sweepers
that for several years cleaned up parks and other public places across
China. Kids liked them.
Now the 4-foot-high sweepers are keeping humans safe.
machines navigate using a combination of pre-programmed maps and
real-time sensing including Lidar, which sends and receives light pulses
to create a 3-D scan of the ever-changing surroundings.
After the outbreak in China, over 200 Little White Snails were enlisted
to fight the spread of the virus. They have been deployed to hospitals
in China to clean and disinfect, said Mike Jellen, chief commercial
officer, at Velodyne Lidar, the U.S. company that works with Idriverplus,
the maker of the sweepers.
“They’re spraying vast amounts of disinfectant,” said Jellen.
An army of snails
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Idriverplus was working to get
autonomous vehicles into Chinese daily life. They saw the pint-sized
sweepers and their delivery robots as an inroad to gaining acceptance in
the society, said Shuhao Huo, a vice president at Idriverplus, at an
event in California last year.
“Because autonomous driving technology is a new technology, in this
size, maybe people can accept it easier,” he said.
Protecting health care workers
Idriverplus robots also deliver meals and medical supplies, reducing
human interaction and the risk of exposure.
Throughout the world, robots, easily disinfected and virus-free, are
being prepared to take on some of the tasks of health care workers.
Idriverplus is helping to develop a mobile robotic arm that can take
throat cultures and check respiration.
As the world fights the pandemic, the quest to save lives is
increasingly bringing robots and humans in closer contact.