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Robot Healthcare Workers: Ebola-immune. Self-decontaminating.

Existing healthcare resources are proving inadequate in treating ebola patients and stemming the spread of the virus. Patients in Sierra Leone are being ordered to stay home due to hospital bed scarcity, leaving unequipped family members to care for the ill. In Dallas, a healthcare worker caught the virus despite following C.D.C. guidelines. Human-controlled robots offer a solution. They could care for and clean up after the ill—tasks that require little skill. They could also be used to burry the dead and decontaminate tainted homes and objects. Being non-human, robots are immune to the disease. Equipped with rugged and water-proof protective equipment, they could self-decontaminate more frequently and effectively than a human.

Photo of Geoffrey Weg
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Granted, the use of robots seems relatively extreme given the general effectiveness of existing solutions; and a rapid deployment is unlikely. But it's worth considering robots as a tool in combating contagious viruses, such as ebola.

Boston Dynamics, a robot manufacturer recently acquired by Google, seems to have the capacity to provide such a robot. Perhaps the Atlas or  Petman models (or a combination of the two) would suffice. 


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Photo of Rainer Winkler

Hi Geoffrey,

maybe the current Ebola epidemic is the last epidemic in history that will be mostly fought by humans without significant robot support. I do not see, how we can get enough robots that can care for patients in the next year. So I fear, your idea will not significantly help us in the near future.

I would be very happy if you stick to this idea. If you do not become frustrated because so few people applauded. This will not be the last major epidemic, but if you promote your idea, it may be the last one, thanks to your proposal, where we are so helpless!

I just applauded, with kind regards

Photo of Geoffrey Weg

The New York Times just wrote a piece on this idea!