How will Robotics and AI accelerate R&D and medical projects?

Although the world has been marked by a general lockdown since early March, most of jobs moved to online and workers switched to remote work (where it was possible), some „employees” knew no lockdown and continued their activity onsite, without being forced to keep social distancing, health or safety rules. I know, you think this sounds weird, if not somehow brazen or even unlawful. But allow me to present these „employees”. They are the robotic scientists, a new category of researchers. Scientists at several universities and institutes (eg. University of Liverpool) have unveiled robotic colleagues that have been working non-stop in their lab throughout lockdown.

The expensive programmable researchers are working autonomously and learning from its results to refine its experiments. A new report*  (rolled out by the Royal Society of Chemistry, London)  lays out a "post-Covid national research strategy", using robotics, artificial intelligence and advanced computing as part of a suite of technologies that "must be urgently embraced" to help socially distancing scientists continue their search for solutions to global challenges. 

Human scientists and doctors  agree that their robotic colleagues must be kept after the pandemic, for the long run.Robotics and automation technology in the lab and also hospitals can work nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can carry out very large numbers of experiments, perhaps 700 in a week, whereas maybe a PhD student might carry out 700 experiments in a PhD. The biggest opportunities are to find reactions, materials and technologies that humans simply wouldn’t find without using these methods.For example, a Liverpool-based lab see the opportunity of the robotic scientist in embarking on a series of tests to find a catalyst that could speed up the reaction that takes place inside solar cells.

In Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium, for example, robots have taken up positions on the literal frontline of health care. Patients arriving at the hospital who suspect they have COVID-19 are greeted by a child-sized robot with stubby arms and a spherical torso.Such robotic researchers are doing also a lot of COVID research. And the best of it is that they don’t get bored, don’t get tired, work around the clock and don’t need holidays. But long story short - recent advances in AI, robotics, data analysis, modelling and simulation have allowed scientists and doctors to augment their research, advancing discovery more quickly, reducing the time it takes to do some tasks in the labs from weeks or months to just hours and identifying patterns and possibilities that humans alone would not see.

[5] Image by felixioncool from Pixabay