Hand-wash ‘buddy’ WallBo has been successfully trialled in two Glasgow schools to boost hygiene awareness and help get kids washing their hands during the pandemic.
The social robot has been boosting handwashing awareness in Scotland after successful runs in other countries around the world.
As part of the trial, the AI tech has been Installed at St Bride’s and Broomhill primaries, offering advice in the form of stories and songs – all delivered in a Scottish accent.
The schools say they have seen an 85% increase in handwashing compliance and a 35% improvement in knowledge around the importance of hand hygiene in preventing the spread of diseases, something that has become vital during the Covid-19 pandemic
WallBo was designed by Glasgow University researchers, who are refining the technology to make it autonomous.
Commenting on the new tech, lead developer and WallBo founder Dr Amol Deshmukh, said: “Our observation is that the children like the features on WallBo.
“[It] looks like a hand and it also has moving eyes, which enhances the overall ‘being watched’ effect. Also, the voice of WallBo is a childlike voice, so it basically creates this connection with children.”
Dr Deshmukh said the research team was working to improve WallBo’s algorithm so it can independently monitor and recognise handwashing movements.
He continued: “During the trials in the two Glasgow schools, we teleoperated the robot as a proof of concept, so there was a human observer who was watching the handwashing steps and teleoperating the instruction provided by WallBo to the children.
“But we have a lot of data that we have collected from the trial which is helping us to build the artificial intelligence system, especially looking at computer vision and machine learning, so WallBo can automatically detect those steps and prompt the desired response from the children.”
The AI tech was first developed to help reduce levels of child mortality in India. According to the firm, WallBo will “boost handwashing compliance by 40%, reduce germ transmission, prevent spread of Covid-19, save healthcare costs, and save lives”.
- Elon Musk to set up Starlink Broadband Base on Isle of Man
- Social media companies are failing to tackle antisemitism
- UK spy agencies under fire for “unlawfully” collecting private data
According to Dr Deshmukh, almost half a million children die every year and a further eight million are infected in developing countries because of poor hand hygiene.
In the future, Dr Deshmukh intends to consolidate the autonomous technology into an upgraded version of WallBo, which will independently monitor and recognise handwashing steps being performed by the pupils and encourage them.
He added: “The results we saw in our tests were very encouraging and, once the Covid-19 pandemic began, we started to consider the positive impact WallBo could have in preventing transmission in children by encouraging improved hand hygiene.”