ROBOTS vs VIRUSES by Kay-Mok Ku

11 February, 2020

As we ushered in the New Year and braced ourselves for the coming “Corona Storm”, the startup community should never forget to turn adversity into opportunity. In fact, it was during the last Year of the Rat, when the financial crisis hit, that iconic startup based on the sharing economy, such as AirBnB, was born.

This viral outbreak may be a golden opportunity for the robotics sector. The Age of Robots may be closer than we think. For the past few years, I have an iRobot, nicknamed Buddy, who dutifully vacuumed the house in my absence. So why can’t we have RoboNurses in hospitals to help read vital signs and take blood tests for patients? What about a RoboCeptionist who can greet guests in 100 different languages and disinfect visitors’ hands before guiding them to the meeting rooms? RoboDrones that could help fight forest fires?

Back to the present. We should stop calling it the Wuhan virus. Wuhan (Link) is a beautiful historical city that is often waxed lyrical by ancient Chinese poets. It has evolved into a modern higher education hub, producing great engineers such as Lei Jun (founder of Xiaomi) and Allen Zhang (developer of WeChat).

Perhaps we need a more pithy name, rather than the mouthful “2019-nCoV”. So here is a possible suggestion, based on the bestselling viral thriller written by Koji Suzuki, called the “RING” (Respiratory Illness Novel Genre)!

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