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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - March 13th, 2020

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, as the world reacts to what is perhaps the most significant event in our lifetimes, the COVID-19 coronavirus, we decided it was only appropriate that we focus on the current epidemic for our weekly news roundup. This is obviously a gigantic topic, one that is mostly outside the scope of our weekly review; still, during this remarkable interaction between tech and global news, we thought it important to cover this event with our own unique perspective––through the eyes of AI.

Coronavirus Spread Slows in China with the Help of Robots

(Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

We begin with news out of China and the coronavirus epicenter. While reviews are mixed as to how China is handling the outbreak, it has done exceedingly well in the area of containment, according to Live Science, "instituting the largest public health experiment in the history of humankind, which is the quarantine of Wuhan [city] in Hubei province." Over one billion people in China are currently on partial or full quarantine, with the entire country is on lockdown. This gives the government valuable time to implement testing and prevention programs, but also limits the amount of workers available. As the title of the Yahoo News article “These robots are fighting the coronavirus in China by disinfecting hospitals, taking temperatures, and preparing meals” suggests, China has been relying on robots to keep human workers safe as they continue to implement prevention measures.

“In China, robots are being used to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, by taking on cleaning and food preparation jobs that are considered dangerous for humans,” writes Yahoo reporter Mary Meisenzahl.

Disinfecting robots, controlled by workers on scooters, spray public areas with disinfectants while workers are able to keep a safe distance. Robots at entrances to hospitals or public buildings take people’s temperatures as they enter and spray disinfectants. And in some restaurants, robots prepare and deliver food.

“ a Feb. 24 report that China and the WHO collaborated on put it, ‘In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history,’” writes Live Science reporter Laura Geggel.

As of today, the spread of the disease in China has slowed significantly, from over thousands of new cases every day of the outbreak’s onset, to just 24 on March 10th.

Recommended Coronavirus Prevention Methods in the U.S.

We finish this week by looking at the conclusion of the Live Science article mentioned above, which outlines the ways in which the U.S. can prevent the spread of coronavirus through practical prevention methods and the help of AI.

“While a China-like quarantine likely wouldn't happen here — the closest comparison would be the voluntary shutdown that happened in Boston during the 2013 manhunt for the marathon bombers; as with the marathon bombing, a good information campaign could do wonders to protect the public from the coronavirus,” said Eric McNulty, associate director at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.

Most prevention methods, such as hand-washing, preventative contact, and disinfecting, closely mirror those of the flu, but with more stringent application due to how quickly the virus spreads. As for testing and what to do if you believe you’re infected, local leaders have listed instructions for your specific community, including how to handle potential infections. In terms of how AI can help, simple things like using a card swipe or self-checkout when available are easy ways to minimize exposure, which begs the question as to whether there is a health need for more cashier-less stores.

That’s all for now. We hope this information has helped alleviate coronavirus-related stress in some small way. For prevention and treatment info, check your state’s department of health page. Here’s a link to the Virginia Department of Health’s page on the coronavirus for reference.

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