Heriot-Watt’s robotics expertise could reduce infection risks

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University are developing a conversational robot that will help reduce the spread of infections like COVID-19 among healthcare workers and patients. 

The SPRING (Socially Pertinent Robots in Gerontological Healthcare) project will see the development of Socially Assistive Robots with the capacity to perform hands-free, multi-person interactions and hold social conversation for the first time in a healthcare setting. It’s hoped that in the future, it could see robots helping people in the reception areas of surgeries and hospitals where there is a high risk of disease transmission.

Professor Oliver Lemon, Heriot-Watt University, explains why SPRING is different. He said:

“Research shows that the careful use of robots in group settings can have a positive impact on health, such as decreased stress and loneliness, and improved mood and sociability.

“Healthcare practitioners have been supportive of the use of robots during the non-medical phases of time in hospital because social robots can help explain complex concepts to patients with limited medical knowledge.

“This type of technology is touch-free and hands-free so will be in great demand in the future as it will reduce the risk and spread of infection such as COVID-19.”

The National Robotarium is a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh which combines Heriot-Watt’s engineering heritage and strengths in robotics for hazardous environments, manufacturing, healthcare, and human-robot interaction with the University of Edinburgh’s expertise in space, construction, and humanoid robotics.