Singapore trials nose-jabbing robot for COVID-19 tests

A man trying out the SwabBot. Photo: National Cancer Centre Singapore/Facebook
A man trying out the SwabBot. Photo: National Cancer Centre Singapore/Facebook

After unveiling robots that disinfect and scold people into social distancing, Singapore is now unleashing one to reach inside people’s heads to swab the deepest recesses of their nasal cavities. 

Dubbed the SwabBot, the automated testing device is the new addition to the family of virus-fighting droids helping address Singapore’s labor shortages linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was developed by clinicians from the National Cancer Centre, Singapore General Hospital and Duke-NUS Medical School, to help automate nasal swabbing, therefore reducing the need for and protecting the health of healthcare workers. 

Since it does not grow tired, developers said it also helps improve productivity. The entire swabbing process takes 20 seconds, it said. 

“Known as SwabBot™, the robot was born to help address the limitations of manual COVID-19 swabbing by reducing swabbers’ risk of exposure to the virus, reducing the need for trained manpower, standardising the consistency of swabs taken and providing greater throughput of swab tests, as the robot does not suffer from fatigue and remains efficient throughout the day,” a statement by the cancer centre said yesterday. 

Earlier today, we had a demonstration of the SwabBot, the first fully patient controlled Nasal Swab Robot. The SwabBot…

Posted by National Cancer Centre Singapore on Sunday, 20 September 2020

The swabbing robot does not move around and remains stationary on a table. After a patient sits in front of it and tilts the head back, the robot will extend the swab, entering the nostril and the back of the patient’s nasal cavity. Patients are allowed to stop the robot whenever they feel uncomfortable. 

A total of 75 patients have so far tried the machine, the cancer center said, adding that the patients have so far described the process as “painless” and “quick.”

The robot project was initiated in April and is expected to be rolled out soon. The clinicians who developed it had collaborated with medical tech company Biobot Surgical, which owns the technology’s patent together with public healthcare group SingHealth.

Other stories you should check out:

Singapore firm unveils virus-slaying robot that could aid COVID-19 fight
Singaporean robot gently scolds park-goers into COVID compliance
COVID-19 cases re-emerge in Singapore’s dorms with 15 new clusters

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