A remotely controlled robot called ‘SPOT’ that is being trialled in a Singapore park warns visitors to observe safe social distancing measures.
The 2-week trial in Singapore’s Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is a collaboration between Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks) and GovTech. A sign in the park tells visitors about the presence of SPOT and how the robot will be moving autonomously through the park to help ensure safe distancing in the park and gardens.
SPOT, the four-legged robot made by Boston Dynamics uses sensors to prevent any collisions with objects or people, and there is a person on-hand to help if there are any unforeseen issues.
Although SPOT is fitted with cameras which can help to estimate the number of visitors to the park, it has been reported that the cameras are not being used to collect personal data or to identify individuals.
As SPOT proceeds around the park, it broadcasts a pre-recorded message that reminds visitors to observe social distancing.
People in Singapore are used to complying with a wide variety of laws governing behaviour in public spaces, so it is likely that even commands delivered by a robot will be observed by most people. For example, in Singapore, on-the-spot fines are common e.g. for littering, smoking in some public places and e-cigarettes can be confiscated, chewing gum is banned, and not flushing the (public) toilet can also result in a fine.
Robot delivery services are already a common sight in many hospitals, but the SPOT robot is also being used at Brigham And Women’s Hospital of Harvard University for remote triage of patients suspected of having COVID-19.
In other cities in other countries e.g. China, the US, Spain and Israel, drones have been used to deliver social distancing and dispersal instructions where there has been an outdoor grouping of people, and (in Jerusalem) outside apartment building windows and balconies to check whether people who have been ordered to self-isolate are doing so.
For drone and robot companies, such as Boston Dynamics, demand has increased during the pandemic because the flexibility, manoeuvrability, and safety (from cross-contamination) provided by these devices has proven to have real value. Robots and drones, using cameras, sensors and other tools can safely and quickly carry out a wide variety of tasks, as and when required, 24/7. Delivery robots and commercial drones have also seen as a boost in demand at a time where human movement has been restricted but where a need for monitoring of property and premises, and delivery of food and other important items is still required.
Automation is becoming an important cost and time saving and an added-value element of many businesses and organisations and the success of robots and drones and the highlighting during the pandemic of the benefits they offer can only to boost the market further and make many businesses, organisations and sectors see new opportunities for robots and drones.