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Brave New World and Markets As Robotics Industry on the Front Line Against Covid-19

By Isabelle Li and Ye Zhanqi / Mar 12, 2020 03:35 PM / Society & Culture

When human capacities fall short, can robots take the strain?

The Covid-19 outbreak has provided an unexpected chance to explore that question. Hundreds of hospitals and makeshift quarantine stations in Hubei, Guangdong and Beijing have deployed robots in various tasks — delivering meals and pills to isolated patients, testing their temperatures, disinfecting rooms, or even cooking dishes for medics after an exhausting shift.

Recent months have given the robotics industry and its latest technologies an unprecedented opportunity to showcase recent advances. As shortages of medical workers became apparent in certain virus-hit areas and direct human contact needed to be limited, machine intelligence filled in, taking over relatively fixed and repetitive tasks. The use of robots in these tasks also helped save protective gears.

Robots were not able to avoid quarantine issues completely however as robot makers found themselves constrained by local quarantine policies in many cities after they sent staffers over to hospitals to help plan how to best use the robots. Also there are issues around the factories producing the robots. Due to the virus they have experienced problems of resuming production capacity to meet demand due to difficulties in the workforce resumption, component supply, and logistics.

As China witnesses the epidemic waning at home but growing abroad, robotics companies realize that the new virus may create long term markets and have set their eyes on the opportunities created by the crisis for future business.

Read the in-depth story in full on Caixin Global later today.

Contact reporter Isabelle Li (

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