Covid-detecting robot protecting schoolchildren in Mexico

Queretaro, Mexico, May 20 (EFE).- Certain schools in the central Mexican state of Queretaro are getting ready to reopen with the help of Benebot, a robot that can detect Covid-19 and other diseases.

Benebot, an artificial intelligence robot created in China and being used in more than 40 countries, has a simplistic look, with blue eyes that inspect students’ faces and a type of “stomach” where students place their hands to have their temperature checked.

On its side, the robot has a screen where different readings from the student it has just checked can be viewed and followed day by day.

With medical-grade cameras, temperature sensors and AI software capable of evaluating in seconds whether or not a child has some kind of health problem, the level of detail in Benebot’s analysis is high and it can identify Covid and other illnesses such as the flu and chickenpox.

“It takes a shot of the eye, analyzes the redness, sees where it started, where it’s expanding. And thus it notices the relationship of each anomaly. It also does it for the hands and mouth,” Antonio Robles, the person in charge of Benebot technology, told EFE.

Mexico at present has suffered almost 2.39 million confirmed coronavirus cases and about 221,000 deaths from Covid-19, the latter figure making it No. 4 in the world in terms of its death toll.

Nevertheless, recently lower levels of infection and fewer deaths are being noted in the pandemic and so many Mexican states are preparing to open their classrooms once the teachers have been vaccinated, a campaign that was launched weeks ago.

Eneri Gutierrez is the mother of a student at the Salesiano school and has seen how the robot operates.

“It’s very interesting to me, above all because it helps us as parents to know that our child is healthy and that they’re not running into trouble with other schoolmates,” she said.

Teachers at the school have also had access to the robot and in a simulation on how the classroom reopening will go, Gabriela Montufal shared with EFE that its operation is very “simple.”

“It’s important to emphasize that it’s for the safety of all the other students because since they share a classroom they’re always at risk of infection,” the teacher said.

The students also said they were comfortable with the robot in the initial tests. Mariana is in third grade and was one of the first kids to try out the technology in a simulation. She said “I liked it and I really feel safe because my classmates and I can be well.”

At present, there are 15 schools in Mexico that have acquired the robot in Queretaro, Puebla and Oaxaca states as well as in Mexico City.

Mexico has not had in-person classes for its 30 million students from elementary to middle school since March 23 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


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