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Rob Auton Syst ; 148: 103922, 2022 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1550056


This article analyses data collected from press reports, social media, and the scientific literature on 338 instances of robots used explicitly in response to COVID-19 from 24 Jan, 2020, to 23 Jan, 2021, in 48 countries. The analysis was guided by four overarching questions: (1) What were robots used for in the COVID-19 response? (2) When were they used? (3) How did different countries innovate? and 4) Did having a national policy on robotics influence a country's innovation and insertion of robotics for COVID-19? The findings indicate that robots were used for six different sociotechnical work domains and 29 discrete use cases. When robots were used varied greatly on the country; although many countries did report an increase at the beginning of their first surge. To understand the findings of how innovation occurred, the data was examined through the lens of the technology's maturity according to NASA's Technical Readiness Assessment metrics. Through this lens, findings note that existing robots were used for more than 78% of the instances; slightly modified robots made up 10%; and truly novel robots or novel use cases constituted 12% of the instances. The findings clearly indicate that countries with a national robotics initiative were more likely to use robotics more often and for broader purposes. Finally, the dataset and analysis produces a broad set of implications that warrant further study and investigation. The results from this analysis are expected to be of value to the robotics and robotics policy community in preparing robots for rapid insertion into future disasters.