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Smiling Robot Advises People on Corona Virus in Times Square

Smiling Robot Advises People on Corona Virus in Times Square

Thursday, 13 February, 2020 - 06:15
New York - London - Asharq Al-Awsat

In New York, a robot with a friendly face rolled into Times Square to advise concerned people on coronavirus, and provide them with information about it.

Curious passersby stopped, filled out a short questionnaire on an iPad-like touch screen attached to the robot's chest, and even had a conversation with the machine.

The 1.5 meter-tall robot named Promobot was created by a Philadelphia-based startup that makes autonomous service robots for businesses and is run by a group of Russians.

The company's chief business development officer, Oleg Kivorkutsev, told Reuters: "We developed a special software to detect coronavirus symptoms. We understand how this problem is important, how people are nervous, people are afraid of this. But if they understand a few, simple things, for example, what symptoms coronavirus has, and what they should do to prevent it, everything will be fine and everyone will be happy."

The robot does not actually detect the virus. It asks if a person has common symptoms such a fever and the person has to hit "yes" or "no" on the touch screen.

Then, they receive a reassuring message if they chose no.

"This thing is very clever. It's really, really clever," said Tara Healy, who was visiting New York from London.

Others were not so easily impressed. "A bit mental, but it sums up New York for me," said Thomas McAlinden from Scotland.

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