Robot with coronavirus advice hits New York's Times Square

Attendee Brandon White (left) examines the Robo C, an autonomous humanoid robot at the Promobot booth during CES 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre on Jan 8, 2020.
Attendee Brandon White (left) examines the Robo C, an autonomous humanoid robot at the Promobot booth during CES 2020 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre on Jan 8, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Worried about the spread of coronavirus? A 1.5m Promobot might have your answer.

The robot with a friendly face rolled into New York's Times Square on Monday (Feb 10) to help provide information about the new virus.

Curious passers-by stopped, filled out a short questionnaire on an iPad-like touch screen attached to the robot's chest, and even had a conversation with the machine.

Promobot was created by a Philadelphia-based start-up that makes autonomous service robots for businesses and is run by a group of Russians.

"We did a special software to detect coronavirus symptoms," the company's chief business development officer, Mr Oleg Kivorkutsev, told Reuters.

"We understand how this problem is important, how people are nervous, people are afraid of this. But if they understand a few, simple things, for example, what symptoms coronavirus has, what they should do to prevent (it), everything will be fine and everyone will be happy."

The robot does not actually detect the virus. It asks if a person has common symptoms such a fever and the person has to hit "yes" or "no" on the touch screen, after which they receive a reassuring message if they chose no.

 

"This thing is very clever. It's really, really clever," said Ms Tara Healy, who was visiting New York from London.

Others were not so easily impressed.

"A bit mental," said Mr Thomas McAlinden from Scotland. "But sums up New York for me."