India, the country with the world’s second-highest number of COVID-19 positive cases has deployed another method to help cushion the effect of the pandemic that has killed many of its citizens: The use of the Mitra robots in the country’s hospitals to help connect patients with their loved ones, and also to help the country’s healthcare workers on the frontlines of the deadly pandemic.
The robots designed by Bangalore-based Invento Robotics, will assist in carrying out different tasks ranging from disinfecting surfaces to answering questions from patients and enabling video consultations with doctors.
Invento Robotics have so far deployed eight robots, but the most popular model dubbed Mitra, which means friend in Hindi language. Mitra’s Production is said to cost around $10,000 and is powered by a facial-recognition technology, which can also remember the names and faces of patients it has interacted with.
The robot can roam around a hospital on its own, helping patients connect with family and doctors via its cameras and a video screen attached to its chest
Balaji Viswanathan, CEO of Invento Robotics analyzing some functions of the robots while briefing CNN Business said :
“Mitra can be the Nurse’s or Doctor’s assistant, take readings and vitals, remind them of medications. This human-like robot engages with patients and gains their trust. It may sound ironic but we are using robots to bring humanity to hospitals,”
Yatharth Hospital in the city of Noida, Northern India, has two Mitra robots at its disposal — one is located at its entrance mainly to screen patients for Coronavirus symptoms and the other in the intensive care unit.
Director of the hospital, Kapil Tyagi while talking to CNN Business said:
“Inside our ICU [Mitra] helps patients connect with their families through video stream and give the patient’s family a look inside. Patients get happy and positive whenever the robot visits them. They are often clicking selfies with Mitra,”
Ivento Robotics CEO, Viswanathan continued by saying Inventomakes use of the “best in class security” for video feeds between doctors, patients and their families for in-depth telemedicine consultations. He confirmed that a booth is built around the robot to give patients privacy.
Doctor Viswanathan together his wife MahalakshmiRadhakrushnun relocated to Bangalore in year 2016 from Boston, USA, where the doctor was completing a PhD in human robot interaction with his wife working in manufacturing.
They had the objective to combine both their experiences to create robots that will help improve patient care in hospitals and care homes, but unfortunately, customers were not forthcoming.
The couple later decided to be supplying banks, including India’s HDFC (HDB) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) in Qatar, with robots that had the ability to identify visitors, print passes and take customer feedback.
“Two years ago, there was not much interest on the healthcare side,” says Viswanathan. “When Coronavirus hit, hospitals finally understood what we were talking about.”
According to statistics, India has dealt with more than 8 million cases of Coronavirus, and more than 120,000 deaths. Most hospitals have struggled to cope, and Ivento aren’t the only Robotic Company helping out.
Milagrow Robotics specializes in home cleaning robots, but has deployed five humanoid cleaning robots to Indian hospitals during the pandemic, while Kerala-based Asimov Robotics has created a robot to dispense medicine and clean up after patients
“Producing robots during the pandemic has been challenging,” says Viswanathan.
“There was a three to four-month delay. Manufacturing was a huge headache,” he added.
But fortunately, his robotic company is starting to deliver on its mission of improving patient care with Viswanathan concluding that that is where his heart is.