Researchers develop robot-aided remote sampling of Covid-19

Song Soo-youn  Published 2020.06.23  16:36  Updated 2020.06.23 16:51


Local researchers said they have developed a robot that can remotely collect a specimen from a patient with an infectious disease, such as Covid-19.

The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM), under the Ministry of Science and ICT, said on Tuesday its research team has developed a robot-assisted technology to take samples needed for diagnostic testing without contact between a doctor and a patient.

A researcher demonstrates how to use the robot to collect a specimen from a patient’s upper respiratory tract remotely. (Credit: Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials)

The research team of Dr. Seo Joon-ho at the Medical Device Lab of The Daegu Convergence Technology Research Center under the KIMM created the technology jointly with the team of Professor Kim Nam-hee of Dongguk University College of Medicine.

The robot-assisted remote sampling consists of “a master device” for the doctor and “a slave robot” for the patient.

The slave robot has a disposable swab that takes the patient’s sample through the nose and mouth. The doctor uses the master device to control the slave robot and take the specimen.

The swab for sampling, mounted on to the slave robot, can move up and down and left and right, or rotate. The researchers applied remote control technology of the parallel robot to collecting samples remotely.

The doctor can move the robot while checking the position of the nostril, the mouth, and the swab with camera images. The user can also remotely adjust the power when inserting the swab and talk to the patient via video.

Using the system to collect a specimen without contact with a patient can significantly reduce medical professionals’ risk of infection of a highly contagious virus, such as Covid-19, the researchers said.

They can make the robot, as small as the size of a face, with a low cost, and it will be highly useful in clinical settings.

“I hope this technology will be used as one of the methods for collecting non-face-to-face samples of high-risk infectious diseases, including Covid-19, to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in a safe medical environment,” Professor Seo said.

Professor Kim of Dongguk University said the system would minimize the inconvenience of doctors’ wearing protective gear when taking specimens. “It is expected to be clinically useful for the diagnosis of infectious diseases in the future,” he added.

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