Robots Combating COVID-19: An Irish Startups AI Solution for Healthcare
Talent Garden are proud to acknowledge a new Irish innovative COVID-19 solution from startup Akara Robotics who have developed a robot radiating ultraviolet light (UVC) that is proven to kill bacteria and viruses. The robot, Violet, can cut down the vital time that is spent manually cleaning rooms in hospitals and health centres and is clinically proven to be effective on the COVID-19 virus.
Akara Robotics is a TCD startup that is working as part of Intel Incubator in Talent Garden Dublin. Akara was inspired by the empowerment of AI and robotics, as they develop technology for the ever growing healthcare industry. The demand for their technology is especially high at this time, as healthcare workers are under more pressure to be as effective in cleaning in the shortest amount of time possible. Akara first developed their robot Stevie in 2019. Featured in Time magazine, Stevie is a social robot created to live and work in retirement homes and has been used in Ireland, UK, Italy, and the US. Stevie works alongside carers, who are able to focus on more pressing patient-centric tasks while Stevie interacts and socialises with residents. After the creation of Stevie, Akara kept its focus on the healthcare industry for their next project, a robot called Violet.
Akara’s newest invention, Violet is an ultraviolet light robot that is clinically proven to kill bacteria, viruses, and harmful germs. Due to the nature of the current coronavirus situation in Ireland, the Irish Health Service (HSE) has fast-tracked its development to carry out trials around Ireland.
On average, it takes five hours to sterilize a hospital room, for which it needs to be vacated while the work is done manually. For some rooms, this is near impossible, such as halls and waiting rooms that are constantly occupied. Violet is able to do the cleaning job in half the time, along with the perks of it being better quality because Violet’s ultraviolet germicidal irradiation enhances the cleanliness. This robot is key to reducing dependency on chemical-based solutions and impractical cleaning practices, as hospital equipment is so expensive and cannot be chemically deep-cleaned using the same products whereas Violet is very effective in these cases.
How does it work?
Robot Violet is a slim ultraviolet light that is programmed to automatically travel around the room to sterilize it in a practical way. The robot uses ultraviolet light at short wavelengths to break down the microorganisms DNA to impede replication. In the case of a virus, it stops the spread of infection to compliment other cleaning methods to ensure full sterilization. Akara are still in experimentation mode, with the scientists continuously performing tests to determine the best results achievable using different wavelengths, angles, and distances. Robot Violet also takes out safety measures for humans too. As ultraviolet light can damage humans skin and eyes, Akara has used artificial intelligence to have Violet shut down immediately at the detection of human stops close to the robot.
What’s next for Violet?
The purpose for creating Violet was to increase the efficiency of cleaning healthcare centres at this time, whilst making the process less labour intensive and safer for staff. The use of ultraviolet light in cleaning has been used in other countries before, but not created to the innovative extent of Robot Violet in Ireland. Co-Founder Dr McGinn stated that the HSE were supportive of Violet but in the best interest of the public and staff that more verification needed to be tested to see the robots effectiveness in cleaning in a clinical setting and ensuring it is not harmful against users. Akara Robotics are in the process of carrying out clinical trials in Irish hospitals as it is currently being tested in Tullamore hospital throughout April.