During India’s lockdowns across the country, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s faculty are using the time to innovate new ways to help in the fight against COVID-19. More than 60 researchers from various fields at the university—including medicine, nanoscience, AI, big data, sensor-manufacturing and material sciences—are participating in a cross-disciplinary effort to design solutions for use around the world..

One of the inventions is Prabha, a remote-controlled sanitization robot that can systematically disinfect rooms with ultraviolet rays. Because exposure to UV light can damage eyes and skin, the user controls Prabha via bluetooth from a separate location. The first model contains three UV lamps and after its success, a larger model with six lamps was developed. Depending on the size of the room, the sanitization process can be done within 15 minutes to one hour.

Amrita’s Humanitarian Technology (HuT) Labs collaborated with Megara Robotics, a private enterprise in Chennai, to develop Prabha, and the team completed its first successful prototype in June of last year. In September, Prabha was deployed at Amrita Hospital in Kochi in the throes of COVID-19 treatment. In March this year, it was launched at the Amrita School of Ayurveda, Amritapuri Campus.

The ultimate goal is to make Prabha as widely available as possible during this hour of need for the world, and as such, the selling price for the first model has been established at ₹13,500 ($180 US). The robot was developed in the context of medical institutions during the pandemic, but can be used in many locations where communicable diseases are a risk, including classrooms, office spaces, restrooms, living rooms and more.

Dr. Rajesh Kannan Megalingam heads Hut Labs and is with Amrita’s Department of Electronics and Communication, School of Engineering. He says all university departments are continuing to develop solutions to help society deal with the devastation of the coronavirus.

“The whole purpose of Amrita HuT Labs is to make robots for humanitarian ends. Robots that can assist sick people or that can do jobs that are unsafe for humans,” he said.

“For example, some of our early successes were with the creation of a low-cost self-driving wheelchair and a Cocobot that harvests coconuts from places so high that if a human climber were to fall, he would certainly be killed. So, as soon as we realized the seriousness of COVID-19, we began working on robots connected with the pandemic.”

Other inventions at Amrita’s HuT Labs include:

  • Maruti – a remotely controlled patient transportation robot that allows the operator or caretaker to move a wheelchair from a safe distance of one to four meters
  • Annapoorna – a robot used to remotely serve food and water and deliver medicines to patients in quarantine
  • Remote Bedside Monitor – an application that uses smartphones to decrease the number of visits required by medical support staff to isolation wards
  • Bodhi – a robot designed for police and security personnel during the lockdown that could patrol streets and bro
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