Used for illustrative purposes only. Source: BBC

Minimal human contact: one of the very few ways a person can reduce their risk of catching the novel coronavirus. And so, many innovators in the UAE have been putting their robotic skills to use during this period to lessen physical encounters between individuals as the number of infections in the Gulf nation surpasses 1,700. 

Emirati inventor Ahmed Al Mazroei is the latest to join the robotic bandwagon with a compact machine that can enter buildings, climb staircases, and get into indoor spaces to spray disinfectants to fight against COVID-19. 

According to The National, Al Mazroei adapted the "sterilization robot" from the machines his company makes for military and security purposes. It can be sent to places where humans are advised not to enter because of the novel coronavirus such as malls, hospitals, and random buildings. 

"You can put sterilization liquid, water, fog, smoke into the system. The robot can be sent to do the cleaning in closed, interior areas where you don't want to send people," the innovator said.

Emirati innovator builds robot to fight the spread of Covid-19

Covid-19: Emirati innovator builds robot to fight the spread of coronavirus

Posted by The National on Sunday, April 5, 2020

The robotic device can be remotely controlled from a distance of 3 km; its battery can last up to 10 hours. In the past few weeks, five units have been tested in Abu Dhabi, specifically during the nationwide sterilization campaign. 

Al Mazroei explained that they have started a production line of robots to use during the global pandemic. Their aim was to build something for indoor spaces, as they are more challenging than their outdoor counterparts. 

Emirati photographer and astrophotographer Ateeq Alsuwaidi is one of the innovators who managed to develop a robot for the latter. He tested the sterilization robot over the weekend, aiming to have it used in the nationwide sterilization program. 

These robotic initiatives aren't the first of their kind in the UAE. In fact, there have been several robotic initiatives in the Gulf nation since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

Another engineer in the UAE - this time in the emirate of Ajman - also developed a smart robot that can detect COVID-19 patients remotely. 

Mohamed Baloola, deputy director at Ajman University Innovation Center, has been working effortlessly to bring the robot to life, according to Khaleej Times. The robot is "aimed to protect all workers on the frontlines, mainly those in the health sector, against coronavirus," the engineer told the English-language publication. 

The robot - which is grounded in artificial intelligence - includes different sensors that can help detect COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough, and heart rate.

Just like the sanitizing robot developed by Al Mazroei, this robot is also run via remote control. It can potentially be placed in airports, hospitals, building entrances, and malls to name a few to restrict exposure between humans. 

So far we have a sterilization robot, a symptom-checker robot, and now it's time to enter the sanitization robot. Last month, an expat student in Dubai created a robot that dispenses sanitizer with the ability to detect a hand from a range of 30 cm. 

Siddh Sanghvi, a Grade 7 student of Spring Dales Schools in Dubai, is the one behind that innovation. The idea popped in his mind after his mother showed him a video in which people were touching the hand of the sanitizer's bottle to potentially disinfect.

"This defeats the purpose because coronavirus can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces," he told Khaleej Times. 

"So, I thought why not create something using the STEM technology, where the machine can dispense the sanitizer automatically, without bringing your hand in contact," he added.

These initiatives flaunt the UAE's futuristic outlook

The UAE has worked hard to earn its title as an advanced and futuristic nation. This can especially be seen in the effort it's been putting into AI in recent years. 

Two years ago, the Emirati nation ranked first in the Arab world when it comes to adopting AI in all aspects of life. After all, the country has a full-fledged AI strategy, an AI ministry, and a university entirely dedicated to the field. In the past few years, its officials have been focused on introducing AI technologies to the country, and it's been working well in its favor. 

By investing in AI, the country has also given its people a foundation to work along when thinking of inventions and solutions as we have witnessed amid the COVID-19 outbreak. AI has actually entered various sectors in the country in recent years. This is particularly because the UAE's AI strategy covers the development and application in nine different sectors: transport, health, space, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and traffic. 

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the country will introduce robotic surgeries in the near future. Dr. Bilal El Yafawi, Consultant Orthotrauma surgeon and head of the Orthotrauma department at Dubai's Rashid Hospital, said the medical institution's trauma center will begin robotic surgeries for knee replacements in the near future. 

"Our specialized team of doctors have already undergone training in this field. We are moving towards the use of the latest technology in orthotrauma surgeries. We already have the three-in-one system known as O-Arm and now we will use robotic surgeries," he said, according to Gulf News.