News News

Return to Full Page
Back

Covid-19 has generated a window of opportunity for the implementation of social robots in many settings

Covid-19 has generated a window of opportunity for the implementation of social robots in many settings

Researchers from UPF have analysed the role that social robots played during the first year of the pandemic. They studied the areas and sectors where they were most widely implemented and defined the roles, services and tasks they performed, as well as the models of robot deployed.

10.06.2022

Imatge inicial

In an observational study, researchers from UPF have analysed the role that social robots played during the first year of the covid-19 pandemic. They studied the areas and sectors where they were most widely implemented and defined the roles, services and tasks they performed, as well as the models of robot deployed. The study was published in the journal Technology in Society (open access).

“We could say that there is no area or sector of human activity that has not been affected by the pandemic. In the case of health, the measures applied to control the pandemic posed certain challenges”, states Laura Aymerich-Franch, a Ramon i Cajal researcher with the UPF Department of Communication and study author. “On the one hand, isolation has a great impact on people’s mental health and, on the other, the physical distancing needed to reduce the risk of infection was very difficult to achieve in some professional activities, such as frontline caregivers, nurses and physicians. Here is where the window of opportunity opened for these technologies”.

Social robots are physical robots specially designed to interact in physical human environments. We are not talking about chatbots (programs that can simulate human conversations  through natural language processing (NPL), but robots that can move and interact physically with people and, often, take a human form.

Social robots are physical robots specially designed to interact in physical human environments that can move and interact physically with people and, often, take a human form.

“When the pandemic started, we saw a boom in news about social robots in hospitals and old people’s homes, and we thought it would be interesting to look into how these robots were being of help during the pandemic”, Aymerich-Franch explains.

Since 2018, the Observatory of Social Robots, directed by Laura Aymerich-Franch, has been monitoring the implementation of social robots in society. Together with Iliana Ferrer, a postdoctoral researcher at UPF and now a visiting lecturer at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), they are studying real cases of their application in health, services, education, etc. through news items, press releases and communiqués by the manufacturers of robots.

“The places where social robots were most common were  hospitals, old people’s homes, transport, restaurants and education centres, but we also find cases at toll gates, in shopping centres and in office buildings”

Between March and November 2020 they found 240 cases in 41 countries and identified 86 different models of robot. “We searched for news that set out which robot was being used, where it was being deployed, its roles and its functions”, she continues. “The places where social robots were most common were  hospitals, old people’s homes, transport, restaurants and education centres, but we also find cases at toll gates, in shopping centres and in office buildings”. The countries with most cases were China, the United States, Thailand and Belgium.

The most used robots were Temi (Robotemi, USA), Pepper (Softbank, USA) and James (Zorabots, Belgium).

With this information, Aymerich and Ferrer classified the roles of the robots into three categories:

1- Liaison

The robots were used to fill the physical distance required to prevent infection. Examples of this function are the delivery of medicaments to patients, the telepresence of relatives and physicians, patient monitoring (taking their temperature, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, observation of physical activity), as receptionists (recording admissions and discharges, giving directions, giving information), patient pre-diagnosis, etc.

2- Security

Robots whose function was to keep the environment clear of the risk of contagion. Few cases already had it incorporated into health care and some of the functions already existed, but during the pandemic they were adapted and implemented, such as robots that reminded people to keep a safe physical distance or not to forget to wear a face mask. Some were present at the entrance to buildings and checked whether people had a temperature or were wearing a face mask.

3- Well-being

They helped to maintain physical and emotional well-being during the pandemic, accompanying the patient or the elderly person at home, entertaining them, and helping with physical exercise and patient adherence to medication.

The results have also shown that at the press level the image of social robots as assistants is rather positive compared to the years before the pandemic. During the pandemic, a more positive image was shown, a robot helping to fight the virus. “Our impression is that the manufacturers found a window to valorize robots given that they had an added value that they did not have before, and many of the manufacturers took advantage of this occasion to loan them free-of-charge to hospitals and residences”, Aymerich-Franch concludes.

Multimèdia

Multimedia

Multimedia

Categories:

ODS - Objectius de desenvolupament sostenible:

ODS - Objetivos de desarrollo sostenible:

SDG - Sustainable Development Goals:

03. Good health and well-being
09. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
Els ODS a la UPF Los ODS en la UPF The ODS at UPF

Per a més informació

Para más información

For more information

Notícia publicada per:

Noticia publicada por:

News published by:

Unitat de Comunicació i Projecció Institucionals

Unidad de Comunicación y Proyección Institucionales

Institutional Communication and Promotion Unit