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The Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Times of Pandemic

From faster healthcare services to companion robots

Illustration by Fahriza on dribbble

It’s been two years.

Will this pandemic ever end, though?

Many of us are still struggling and trying to survive. But, the human race is making a tremendous amount of progress.

Reopening Broadway, concert tours, even music festivals are making a comeback. Even though there’s an endless list of safety precautions.

The healthcare industry also found a smarter, quicker way to tackle the corona.

Thanks to AI-powered solutions.

This sophisticated technology helps ease the burden of manual labor.

Here are some ways how AI is solving some of healthcare’s biggest challenges during the pandemic and being used to help fight the viral pandemic.

Detect and track the virus with screening tools

There has long been a need for a quick and reliable tool that can detect Covid. Especially now with the upswing of the Omicron variant.

Scientists in Scotland have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) based test that uses X-rays to accurately diagnose Covid in just a few minutes — quicker than the PCR test which can take up to two hours.

They scan a database of around 3,000 images belonging to patients with Covid, healthy individuals, and people with viral pneumonia.

During an extensive testing phase, the technique proved to be more than 98% accurate.

Some countries like South Korea, China, Russia, India, Poland, and Japan started using AI-powered facial recognition to track Covid cases.

The system analyses footage gathered by almost 11,000 CCTV cameras and tracks an infected person’s movements and whether they were wearing a mask.

China’s facial-recognition tech can crack masked faces amid coronavirus. Image source: Quartz

Predict the recovery time of patients

A German research team developed an artificial intelligence tool that can predict how a patient will react after being hospitalized based on a blood sample.

The tool can predict a patient’s survival chance based on levels of protein in their blood.

In times of crisis, where resources are especially scarce, the tool helps health workers to provide direct life-saving, intensive treatment to the neediest patients sooner.

The prediction model detects 14 levels of protein in a drop of a patient’s blood. before making a decision. And it was found to be 96% accurate.

Spot any new variant

Around the world, it’s a constant battle to keep up with new mutations.

Early flagging off a new potential high-risk variant surely is such an effective tool to alert scientists, health authorities, and policymakers, to respond to the warning.

In this situation, a German-based biotech company, BioNTech teamed up with London-based AI company, InstaDeep, to develop an AI-powered tool with an early warning system for spotting potentially dangerous new coronavirus variants.

Curb loneliness

Japan has long had a reputation for being robot-obsessed.

Instead of getting real furry pets, some people in the country choose to get robot pets — they might look like a cat, or a dog, or just… robot.

The AI-driven personality of the robot can be shaped by the whims and habits of its owner.

Sony created an AI-infused robotic dog, Aibo. Image source: japantimes

These robotic animals help people cope with stress and provide companionship, making them less lonely while isolating or working from home.

Not just animal-shaped robots, though.

There is also a headless, legless, fury robot (or we may just call it pillow-bot?) with a wagging tail that has sold more than 30,000 units.

Because, hey, who cares about what your face looks like when you can bring comfort and peace?

Qoobo, Japan’s headless robotic pet pillow with a moving tail. Image source: timeout.com

Reduce human contact

Some countries also use AI-driven robots to reduce human contact and the risk of transmission of infection during the pandemic.

Robots could help doctors keep a safe distance from the patient by using probes and other remote medical equipment.

In many restaurants, robots are also used to greet and serve, chat with guests, take their orders, and run food right from the kitchen.

Serving robots that deliver food to the table of customers at restaurants in Seoul, South Korea. Image source: wowtale.com

And in Japan, avatar robots are used to replace students for the graduation ceremony. Students can control the robot from home to receive their degree.

Tablets are attached to robots to replace graduating students’ presence at a ceremony at Business Breakthrough University (BBT) in Tokyo, Japan. Image source: VOI

This pandemic has shown us just how fast AI works and what it can do in so many different ways.

Of course, not all things can be replaced by AI. That would be just scary.

AI usage in times of pandemic (especially in the healthcare industry), must be balanced by the appropriate level of “real” human expertise for the final decision making to ensure safe care.

While human clinical reasoning and decision-making can’t be replaced easily by AI, the technology is a decision aid that helps humans improve effectiveness and efficiency in times of crisis.

So, what do you think? Feel free to leave your thoughts about all these AI-driven “tools” below.

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