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Gatekeeper robots developed to check people for virus symptoms at Japan hospitals

A Paramedi Tapia is seen at Shanti Inc. in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, on April 25, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Mogami)

TOKYO -- A Tokyo-based robotics firm has developed egg-shaped robots that interview people at hospital entrances to determine whether they are showing COVID-19 symptoms before they have contact with others.

The Paramedi Tapia robots, developed by Shanti Inc. in Meguro Ward, sense when a person is near, and ask a series of questions to confirm the presence of typical coronavirus symptoms including fever, cold or fatigue. The queries are shown visually on a screen on the robot and aurally, and patients answer "Yes" or "No."

If a person doesn't appear to have the virus, the Paramedi Tapia advises them to go to the hospital reception, where staff will see them. But if they are judged to have the symptoms, they are guided to a separate space to prevent contact with patients and others. Nurses and other staff members wearing protective equipment then receive them in the space. The interview by the robot takes about 20 to 30 seconds.

Ordinarily, Shanti develops and sells robots for healthcare receptions and other functions. But with the spread of the novel coronavirus, the firm has had numerous enquiries from medical institutions that sought ways to reduce contact between their staff and patients suspected to have the virus. In response, it started developing Paramedi Tapia, and the robot was completed at the end of March.

The robots are already in use at five locations in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Okayama prefectures. They can reportedly also be equipped with a non-contact thermometer to check people's temperatures, among other augmentations.

The company's executive director told the Mainichi Shimbun, "It's most important that a collapse of the healthcare system is prevented. I'd like to see places that offer entertainment and leisure using them, too."

A single Paramedi Tapia sells for around 300,000 yen. Enquiries should be made to the company on 03-6873-6419 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Kazuki Mogami, City News Department)

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