i3 | January 04, 2021

AI and Robotics

Susan Schreiner

The COVID-19 crisis is a catalyst accelerating demand for artificial intelligence (AI) solutions across industries. New products and services abound for sectors ranging from retail, supply chain management and health care to manufacturing, sales, finance and transportation. The rise in synthetic intelligence is transforming industry. The challenge is how to shift mundane work currently done by humans to robots. The core of AI is in harnessing, analyzing and uncovering patterns in data — to empower change and actions.

Health and Wellness

COVID-19 has fast-tracked the consumerization of health care. Humanoid robots are entering the home as caretakers or in hospitals to deliver medication or monitor patients to minimize the spread of infection. The convenience of telehealth technology and remote diagnostics, as well as aging-in-place technologies are making an impact at home.

Humanoid robots are a newer form of professional service robots. They mimic human motion and interaction and are starting to become commercially viable. The market for humanoid robots will reach $3.9 billion in 2023, according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). These robots act as companions for the elderly and sick, educational robots or personal retail assistants.

Bio-pharma is deploying AI to discover, research and pilot drugs, treatments and vaccines to better mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. AI and robotics are playing a role in the pharma supply chain, clinical trial innovations, screening and diagnostics and robotic-assisted surgery. Many companies are working on AI-driven health care products and services including:

Apple is tackling heart health, cognitive health and elder care. Their products collect health data, use AI expertise to interpret the data, and are forming partnerships to create an end-to-end ecosystem.

Google Cloud recently won a project from the Pentagon’s new Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to “prototype an AI-enabled digital pathology solution at select DoD [Department of Defense] facilities.” Though focused on “predictive cancer diagnoses” for now, Google plans to expand the AI model for predicting Covid-19 diagnoses.

Microsoft AI for Health Grant was awarded to the Mount Sinai Health System in New York to establish a data science center dedicated to COVID-19 research. “Through this collaboration with AI for Health, we are leveraging the expertise of the Mount Sinai Health System in delivering world-class patient care and the Azure cloud to bring our AI-enabled products from bench to bedside,” said Robbie Freeman, MSN, RN, vice president of Clinical Innovation at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab is funding 10 research projects to address the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. Projects include which materials make the best face masks, treating COVID-19 with repurposed drugs, a privacy-first approach to automated contact tracing, overcoming manufacturing and supply hurdles to provide global access to a vaccine.

Intel is part of an industry Partnership on AI — aimed at helping members use AI to improve lives and society — across vertical sectors.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is testing robot technologies to create house-cleaning robots. To teach robots how to perform a task like loading a dishwasher, TRI researchers created a VR environment where a person demonstrates for the robot by manipulating its arms. The robot then uses machine learning to determine the best movements inside a simulated environment to accomplish the task.


Robots powered by AI are providing solutions to solve common problems and add value to our lives by helping children learn better, improve medical diagnoses and provide health care for loved ones.

Robotics and AI will be key topics at CES 2021.

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