Robotics researchers from numerous institutions are working to organize national workshops that will bring together roboticists and humanitarian workers to discuss how robots could be used to address the needs of workers fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Researchers envision robots that can be used to sterilize equipment and facilities, remotely monitor and provide human contact to those in quarantine, and assist in the dangerous and sensitive activity of burying the bodies of those killed by the disease.
On Nov. 7, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Texas A&M University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the University of California Berkeley, among others, will host simulcast meetings that will include medical responders, academic researchers, and commercial robotics companies. "The workshop is for us to shut up and listen to them and take what we hear them say and use it," says organizer Robin Murphy of Texas A&M.
Another organizer, Worcester Polytechnic's Taskin Padir, says the goal of the meetings is not to find ways to remove humans from the Ebola response effort — most of the robots will be remotely operated — but to find ways to use robotics technology to enable human responders to manage the disease without putting themselves directly in harm's way.
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