Well-Being Prevention & Cures

What is ‘the R2-D2 of coronavirus’ doing in New York City?

A half-century ago, Rosie the Robot cleaned up after “The Jetsons,” and an unnamed robot from “Lost in Space” warned ‘Danger Will Robinson!’ whenever trouble (aka Dr. Smith) was brewing. R2-D2 and C-3PO helped Luke and Leia out more than 40 years ago in “Star Wars.”

But while robotics have reshaped our industries, human-like robots have never quite gotten a foothold in the modern world.

One Russian-based company is working hard to finally change that. 

Promobot is a 5-foot-high bundle of energy with a smiling face, a cool set of wheels and a touch-screen tablet embedded in its chest. It can answer questions, respond to verbal cues and print out photos and documents. The company says the robots can take on dozens of jobs, from greeting clients to giving guided tours to checking in customers and providing promotional materials. Some 500 of the little robots are now working in 36 countries for organizations that include Lufthansa, Vodafone and the Government of Moscow.

Over the past few weeks, a smiling Promobot has been what you could call the r2d2 of coronavirus, roaming New York’s Times Square and other venues in Manhattan to ask passersby if they are feeling feverish. The goal is to convey information and advice about protecting yourself from infectious diseases, including the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Pro-tip: wash your hands!) 

As company founder Oleg Kivorkutsev said to the New York Post, ‘We were trying to tell people about the virus. We’re bringing attention to the problem.”

Some humans, however, weren’t on board with the robot’s mission: The promobot was booted from New York’s Bryant Park for not having a permit for commercial business.

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