LG has created a new autonomous cleaning robot capable of killing COVID-19 using ultraviolet (UV) light. Set to ship in early 2021, the company envisions the robot will be employed to disinfect surfaces in high-traffic, high-touch places like schools and restaurants.
"Whether it's hotel guests, students in classrooms or patrons of restaurants and other businesses, they can rest assured that the LG autonomous UV robot will help reduce their exposure to harmful bacteria and germs," LG said in a press release.
Surface spread — While it is possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface, the CDC says that the virus mainly spreads through the air by breathing around others (wear a mask!). You can get COVID-19 from surfaces, but a sequence of events would have to happen. Someone would need to get a large enough amount of the virus on a surface to cause infection, then it would need to survive long enough for you to touch it — the virus can die on surfaces within hours. And then you'd need to touch your mouth or nose shortly after contact. Needless to say, a UV light is a bit of theater that will help disinfect some environments, but it's not the end-all-be-all.
Still, routine cleaning of surfaces touched by multiple people is something businesses should do anyway to maintain a healthy environment. And LG rightly points out that many people have a higher expectation for cleanliness as a result of the pandemic.
Safety measures — LG's robot, which does not yet have an official name, is supposed to use artificial intelligence to easily move around tables, chairs, and other furniture, and can irradiate a room's touchable surfaces within 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the space. With a mobile app, users can monitor its progress to completion. LG says that the robot features built-in "human motion detection sensors" so that it can avoid exposing anyone to harmful radiation. In case the sensors aren't working, an emergency stop button on the robot and in the app will halt it.
LG will be announcing more details about the robot in January as part of its presentation at CES 2021, which will be held exclusively online this year. Apparently saving a massive trade show is an order too tall for this little guy. Again, a UV light isn't enough to stop the spread of the virus — staying home is still the best move. But this robot could offer some peace of mind as a vaccine is distributed and we all slowly start returning to some degree of normalcy.