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Robot ‘Avatars’ Could Make Workplaces Safer During Pandemics

Posted on 12 June 2020

Robot developed to aide Japan's aging workforce makes itself useful in fight against coronavirus
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If there is anything positive to come of this pandemic, perhaps it is that COVID-19 has been a wake up call – a reminder that the emergence of new diseases is an ever present threat, one against which we need to be prepared. This includes not only thinking about how we can reduce the spread of novel pathogens, but also limiting the economic impact when a pandemic does occur. We have seen companies move to facilitate working from home, but a robot ‘avatar’ developed in Japan may allow those returning to work to minimise their exposure to the virus.

Mira Robotics developed its “ugo” robot to reinforce greying Japan’s shrinking workforce, but as the coronavirus threat persists, the Japanese startup is offering its machine as a tool in the fight against the outbreak, the company’s CEO said.

“The coronavirus has created a need for robots because they can reduce direct contact between people,” Ken Matsui told Reuters at his company’s workshop in Kawasaki, near Tokyo. “We’ve had inquiries from overseas, including from Singapore and France.”

The latest feature of the remote-controlled or so-called avatar robot is a hand attachment that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses on door handles.

Mira Robotics’ Ugo is a pair of height-adjustable robotic arms mounted on wheels, operated remotely through a wireless connection with a laptop and game controller. A range-measuring laser mounted on the base helps it navigate, while a panel at the top displays eyes to give it a friendlier appearance.

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