The robot that helps India’s COVID-19 patients to connect with loved ones

A hospital in India has stationed a customer-service robot to patrol its wards to connect patients suffering from the novel coronavirus with their friends, family, and relatives. Mitra which translates to “friend” in Hindi, is best known for interacting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event in 2017. According to a report in Reuters, Mitra’s piercing eyes are equipped with facial recognition technology to help it recall people that it has previously interacted with. 

Subsequently, a tablet attached to Mitra’s chest allows patients to see loved ones, as well as medical staff unable to access the wards. Dr Arun Lakhanpal, a doctor at the Yatharth Super Speciality Hospital in Noida Extension said, “It takes a lot of time to recover, and during this time, when patients need their families the most, they are unable to visit.” 

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Mitra is mainly used by patients who are not able to communicate using their phones. Sharing his own experience, Makhanlal Qazi, a retired government bureaucrat and coronavirus patient who had used the robot to communicate with relatives said, “We mainly discuss my health. I came here on Friday and now I have started feeling better. I am feeling very happy now.”

The robot is developed by Bengaluru-based start-up Invento Robotics and cost the hospital 1 million rupees ($13,600), according to Yatharth Tyagi, director of the company that runs the hospital.

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Apart from connecting people with each other, Mitra is also used for remote consultations with specialists to reduce their risk of becoming infected, he added. Tyagi said, “Normally it is very difficult for a psychologist or a dietician to see a COVID patient,” adding the robot is “very useful”.

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As for the increasing coronavirus cases in India, the tally on Wednesday surged past 5 million, only the second country in the world to cross the grim milestone after the United States of America.

(Inputs from Reuters) 

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