Meet new healthcare Hiro, a robot that disinfects surfaces, reminds polyclinic visitors to put on masks

Hiro is part of NP's collaboration with healthcare provider SingHealth, which operates eight of the 20 polyclinics here. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Visitors to Tampines Polyclinic this month may be surprised to see a robot instead of a nurse monitoring their temperatures and reminding them to put on their masks.

The robot - known as the Healthcare Assistive Robot for Frontline Infection Control (Hiro) - was built by researchers at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and is currently on trial at the polyclinic.

The robot uses UV-C light to kill bacteria and viruses, and can direct visitors to service points.

NP's Robotics Research and Innovation Centre assistant director Hui Tin Fat said: "The robot is meant to help cut down on the possibility of infection in the polyclinics and also reduce the burden on healthcare staff doing laborious tasks like cleaning hard-to-reach areas and temperature screening, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic."

Hiro is part of NP's collaboration with healthcare provider SingHealth, which operates eight of the 20 polyclinics here.

Development of the robot began in August 2020, and there are plans to roll out more at various SingHealth polyclinics next year, Mr Hui told The Straits Times.

The two organisations signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday (Oct 12) to continue work on the robot.

On Tuesday, NP also announced the opening of the Robotics Research and Innovation Centre, which is split into two wings and housed on NP's campus in Clementi Road.

The centre will host students undertaking a new Specialist Diploma in Robotics Engineering, which is catered to adult learners and is set to take in 40 applicants in April next year.

The facilities include workshops, showcase areas and laboratories, and will give students access to real-world experience in robotics, said NP deputy principal Russell Chan.

He told ST at the launch: "We really want this facility to be a platform for collaboration with the industry as NP moves towards our vision of helping to develop technology for the future in the healthcare, transportation, construction and sustainability industries."

Other projects under development include a park patrol robot and a plant health monitoring robot with the National Parks Board (NParks). A teaching assistant robot called CoDDiE that helps students learn coding was developed last year in collaboration with Hougang Primary School.

Spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, various unmanned robots have been appearing in public roles across the country.

In September, the Ministry of Home Affairs started a three-week trial of a robot named Xavier, which is meant to stop undesirable social behaviour like smoking where it is not allowed.

In May last year, NParks wheeled out a four-legged robot called Spot to patrol Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, reminding people of safe distancing measures.

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