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Artificial Intelligence, Covid19, News, Technology

Japan’s AI Battalion Against COVID-19

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer
@uxconnections

The East Japan Railway Company unveiled AI-equipped robots that disinfect frequently contacted surfaces to arrest the spread of COVID-19

Humanity may have gained an unlikely ally in the war against SARS-CoV-2. 

On Monday the East Japan Railway Company introduced automated cleaning and disinfecting mobile robots engineered by Nippon Signal Company at Tokyo’s Takanawa Gateway Station. 

The AI-equipped robots will disinfect and sanitise surfaces that frequently come into contact, such as counters, benches and handrails to neutralise the threat of contracting COVID-19 amid pandemic. 

The automated cleaning robot named CLINABO comes with 3D distance image sensors to calculate trajectory, account for obstacles and ensure a safe cleaning path. CLINABO features a manual and an automatic mode —the robot can be taught up to 100 routes for automated cleaning or can be set for cleaning manually. The compact design of the AI-powered robot allows it to reach narrow passages and clean meticulously to a shine. 

The Japan Times reported that the JR East is considering the bot alongside other disinfection robots to sterilize the interior of train compartments in the near future.

AI: The Achilles In the Pandemic?

What’s better than an ally in a life and livelihood threatening pandemic? Possibly, an invulnerable ally. 

The popular phrase “Stay at home for us, because we stay at work for you” is perhaps the most definitive phrase that delineates the predicament of cleaning workers. 

Each day thousands of domestic workers, janitors and housekeeping staff venture out of their homes and march on to the front lines to fight the spread of the global pandemic, exposing themselves to grave health risks, as often when it comes to obtaining personal protective equipment kits, they find themselves shorthanded. 

In March, Bloomberg reported about 4.4 million janitors and domestic workers in America working on the frontlines to help arrest the pandemic hustled to get their hands on protective equipment, but owing to a large unprecedented demand thereof, were compelled to work without them. As the demand for cleaners skyrocketed within days, the supply for PPE kits remained ever so scarce. 

In a paradigm like the current, the development of AI-driven robots that protect the society from the onslaught of the novel coronavirus by providing contact-free decontamination may prove to be the deus ex machina we need. 

Out of the many viruses that can affect computers, the coronavirus isn’t one of them.

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