Mahmoud El-Koumi wanted to find a way that his mechanical engineering would bear fruits in Egypt’s management of the coronavirus pandemic. So the Cairo-based technologist thought of how to minimize the contact between healthcare providers – the frontline army against the unseen virus – on one hand, and patients.
So El-Koumi engineered a robot with the specific task of playing a doctor’s assistant. The remote-control robot was named Cira-03, and when Reuters spoke to El-Koumi in December, he reported that Cira-03 was doing exactly as expected. The automaton can test for Covid-19 and take the temperature of patients, at a private hospital in the city of Tanta. where it is being trialed.
El-Koumi explained: “Before starting its mission, the robot receives training to improve its AI. The training is done by a specialist doctor, the AI in this training acts like a human doctor.”
But Cira-03 is not only taking temperatures and carrying out COVID-19 tests. It can detect your echocardiographs as well as X-rays. All of Cira-03’s results can be seen on a small monitor it has for a chest. The robot is built with a human-like face but without arms.
“This robot is specially designed to help the medical staff during Covid-19 times. It is a medical robot capable of multi-tasks, it can deal with patients in their beds, chest scans, fever screening, and face mask detection,” El-Koumi, 27, added. He was also mindful of how humans would have to relate with his creation and that consideration went into Cira-03’s build.
“I tried to make the robot seem more human so that the patient doesn’t fear it. So they don’t feel like a box is walking in on them. There has been a positive response from patients. They saw the robot and weren’t afraid. On the contrary, there is more trust in this because the robot is more precise than humans.”
Egypt has reported nearly 200,000 cases of the COVID-19 infections but the vast number of people – over 150,000 – are well. The country was also the first to roll out a nationwide vaccination program with support from foreign partners such as China and Russia.