Six researchers from the Mobile Robotics Laboratory of the Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (ICMC) at USP, in São Carlos (SP), created the prototype of an autonomous robot that serves to help healthcare professionals who are overloaded with work by pandemic caused by the coronavirus.
"The goal is to support the distribution of medicines and food to sick patients in hospitals and, in addition to reducing the workload, the contact between health professionals and people with Covid-19 will also be reduced", explains PhD student Daniela Ridel.
Two years ago she founded the startup 3DSoft in partnership with researchers Luis Rosero, Tiago dos Santos and Patrick Shinzato to create a low-cost sensor, suited to the national reality. Then they started to develop a service robot for deliveries, which should be ready in the coming months.
"Due to the coronavirus scenario, we made a radical change and created the prototype to help healthcare professionals," says Shinzato.
The first thing the robot must do is map the environment in which it will travel, in theory only once. Then he follows the path that must be carried out, later, autonomously, collecting data from the environment, using sensors, and building a map of the place. After this map is created, the robot must then be able to identify which position the map is in, establishing a relationship between what the sensors are picking up (what the robot is seeing) and what it recognizes from the environment (map).
Given that the robot is able to locate itself on this map, it is possible to choose any point in the environment and the robot will be able to trace a route to reach the chosen point, respecting the areas that are not navigable.
The group is looking for specialized health partners who can help the team better understand the demands of those on the front lines of combating coronavirus and adjust the project. "We have the technical capacity to make this project happen, however, there is a lack of help for the robot to reach the hands of those in need," explains Ridel. "Ideally, a partner would be able to put us in contact with hospitals as well as invest in assembling more robots. As we are all in the computing area, we need people with other skills who can present the project to investors and anyone else who can help us. to help."
She estimates that, with all the resources at her disposal, it would take about two months of work to have a functional prototype ready. The unit cost of the first version of the robot was around R $ 17 thousand, considering the parts used for the construction of the chassis, which is the base of the equipment, the sensors and the fairing, which is the part placed on top of the base, and it can be a flat surface or a storage chest.
"On a large scale, this cost would certainly be reduced significantly. In addition, this set of sensors can be changed according to the application. For example, if we could place markers on the hospital floor for the robot to guide, it would be feasible to use a sensor low cost, as well as the fairing can be modified according to the application ", he explains.
"We are sure that the current times call attention to the fact that robotics can help a lot in situations like that of a pandemic. We would like the prototype of our robot to be ready in an eventual future demand", says Ridel. (With USP Journal)