Skip to main content

Robot Uses UV Light to Fight COVID-19 in Schools, Offices

UBTech Adibot
(Image credit: UBTech)

Disinfecting surfaces is part of the daily grind at schools, offices, hospitals and other institutions, but simply wiping them down may not be enough. UV light is proven to kill bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, but it’s also harmful to human eyes and skin, potentially causing skin cancer or cataracts. 

UBTech, maker of the popular Jimu line of kids’ robots and the life-size Walker robot, has a new solution rolling out. Its Adibot robot blasts a room with the appropriate level of UV-C light while humans wait safely outside.

Adibot is available in two versions: a $40,000 model which can roll around a room on its own and a $20,000 stationary unit that you put in the middle of a room. While those prices may sound high, UBTech GM John Rhee told us that hospitals have similar robots that cost well over $100,000. The company also has a program where it charges as little as $15 a day to finance or lease the machines.

UBTech Adibot

(Image credit: UBTech)

Both versions of Adibot come with a smart warning sign that maintenance staff can put outside a room to block people from accidentally entering. Both the robots and the sign itself have human detection capabilities they can use to see if a person enters the line of fire and turn themselves off. They also have cameras that record any intrusions so, if someone does get into the restricted area, you’ll know who it was.

We saw a brief demo of the stationary model in action. An UBTech employee rolled it into an empty conference room, walked outside and then used an iPad app to set the light exposure time (only a couple of minutes is needed), safety settings and other options. 

Rhee said that a common use case for Adibot will be school, hotel or office maintenance staff deploying it in rooms before or after they are finished cleaning and move onto the next space. Organizations will not only get the robot and the app, but training on how to use it best, along with timely support and maintenance.

The Adibot will be available later this month and UBTech announced it already has a partnership in place with the Delaware Department of Education to test the robots in its Christina School District.

 New Jimu Go Robots 

UBTech Jimu Go Robots

(Image credit: UBTech)

UBTech also announced that it is releasing a new line of kids robots kits dubbed Jimu Go. A successor to its popular line of Jimu robot kits, Jimu Go will launch in Q4 of this year and initially offer three different sets: Robot Speedster, Music Box Maker and Mars Rover. 

Rhee told us that Jimu Go will differ from Jimu in a few key ways. First, where Jimu kits have cost as much as $300, Go will focus on affordability with MSRPs below $99. The parts will also be redesigned to make it easier for children who are still developing their hand-eye coordination to plug in wires and connect blocks. 

Finally, Jimu Go will offer a camera module that allows users to use computer vision on their robots. So young children, the core audience for Jimu, will now be able to train machine learning models and have their robots do object recognition.

Rhee said that the software for Jimu will be redesigned but will still use the company’s block-based coding language. 

First launched in 2016, the company’s original Jimu line of robot kits remains popular. Recent entries in the line include the UnicornBot, which has an RGB horn and motors, and the DragonBot, which has flapping wings.

  • mac_angel
    I was confused why this wasn't being done months ago.
    I had a mold problem in our home last summer. Looked into how to clear it up, and filters. Found a bunch of filters that had ION and/or UV-C lights. Googled that stuff, found UV-C lights pretty much kill all DNA. Looked up on Amazon, found some on there, and some that had UV-C plus Ozone. More Google, ended up picking up a couple of them. It didn't take a whole lot to look it up and see how much it could do for the whole pandemic. Hang them up and turn them on at night. In schools, in doctor's offices, pretty much anywhere, especially places that have high traffic. They may not be 100%, but that, plus other measures, every little bit counts. And they aren't that expensive.
    You'll also find on Amazon all kinds of UV-C disinfectant stuff for your cell phones and other items. They've been around for a while now.
    Reply
  • jkflipflop98
    So it's a bulked-up Roomba with some UV lights on the top. For $100k.

    I've got a new design idea to work on. . .
    Reply
  • velocityg4
    Meanwhile my grocery store has a UV light setup in the shopping cart area. Which just blasts the carts and everyone getting a cart with UV light.
    Reply
  • Adz_au
    What about using far-UVC light at 222 nanometers ??
    Recent studies have been shown Far-UVC to be as efficient as conventional germicidal UV light in killing microorganisms while also suggesting that these wavelengths do not cause the human health issues associated with direct exposure to conventional germicidal UV light.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67211-2
    Reply
  • Adz_au
    velocityg4 said:
    Meanwhile my grocery store has a UV light setup in the shopping cart area. Which just blasts the carts and everyone getting a cart with UV light.

    That's concerning. The amount of UV-C you need to be effective at killing virus cell membranes is about 20,000 joules per metre squared, and you probably aren’t going to get that in an e-Bay type hand-held device, however, a fixed high power bulb like used in hospital cleaning is dangerous.

    UV-C 254 nm light? (I hope not) or just an ordinary "black-light" normally seen in a night-club which is UV-A ~365nm range.
    They are very different in effect on biological organisms.

    If it's the former UV-C 254 Germicidal type, it's dangerous to humans and certainly should be avoided.
    They also cause ozone gas to be created which is irritating to soft lung tissues and can cause lung inflammation.
    You see these lights deployed in hospitals with operators wearing full hazmat gear to block the rays.
    No way are they allowed to have patients in the room when those are doing their thing.

    If it's just a night-club UV-A lamp, at most it will make your fluorescent clothes glow however, high-powered UV-A prolonged exposure should preferably be avoided. We are talking the nasty "tanning bed" power.
    Sunlight also has UV light ranges and causes premature skin ageing and skin cancer due to harmful UV-B and mainly UV-A at high intensity.

    Just for info, most to almost all UV-C is blocked by our atmosphere however, it is the most dangerous form of light due to the high-energy yield. It is known as an ionising radiation due to its ability to detach electrons out of orbit from around atoms and molecules much like X-Rays. UV-B also can do this. It is the main cause of skin cancer and so is high-powered UV-A but, you need a lot of it.
    That being said, even although UV light carries enough energy to damage eyes, the Far-UVC 222 nm wavelength appears to not penetrate the tear layer present on the eye or the outer dead skin layer but it's still considered "ionising"
    Reply
  • velocityg4
    Adz_au said:
    That's concerning. The amount of UV-C you need to be effective at killing virus cell membranes is about 20,000 joules per metre squared, and you probably aren’t going to get that in an e-Bay type hand-held device, however, a fixed high power bulb like used in hospital cleaning is dangerous.

    UV-C 254 nm light? (I hope not) or just an ordinary "black-light" normally seen in a night-club which is UV-A ~365nm range.
    They are very different in effect on biological organisms.

    If it's the former UV-C 254 Germicidal type, it's dangerous to humans and certainly should be avoided.
    They also cause ozone gas to be created which is irritating to soft lung tissues and can cause lung inflammation.
    You see these lights deployed in hospitals with operators wearing full hazmat gear to block the rays.
    No way are they allowed to have patients in the room when those are doing their thing.

    If it's just a night-club UV-A lamp, at most it will make your fluorescent clothes glow however, high-powered UV-A prolonged exposure should preferably be avoided. We are talking the nasty "tanning bed" power.
    Sunlight also has UV light ranges and causes premature skin ageing and skin cancer due to harmful UV-B and mainly UV-A at high intensity.

    Just for info, most to almost all UV-C is blocked by our atmosphere however, it is the most dangerous form of light due to the high-energy yield. It is known as an ionising radiation due to its ability to detach electrons out of orbit from around atoms and molecules much like X-Rays. UV-B also can do this. It is the main cause of skin cancer and so is high-powered UV-A but, you need a lot of it.
    That being said, even although UV light carries enough energy to damage eyes, the Far-UVC 222 nm wavelength appears to not penetrate the tear layer present on the eye or the outer dead skin layer but it's still considered "ionising"

    It's the light cyan not purple UV light. So, I assume it is UV-C at the store. As I have regular UV-A lights for retr0brighting. It's multiple 4ft tubes. So, I'd say it's pretty strong. At least the carts should be sanitary.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    Does it run around saying exterminate!exterminate! And resistance is futile

    mxD-5z_xHBUView: https://youtu.be/mxD-5z_xHBU
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Both the robots and the sign itself have human detection capabilities they can use to see if a person enters the line of fire and direct an ultraviolet laser beam into their eyes with surgical precision to discourage future re-entry.
    Interesting...

    jkflipflop98 said:
    So it's a bulked-up Roomba with some UV lights on the top. For $100k.

    I've got a new design idea to work on. . .
    Actually, according the article it's just $40,000 for this model, or 20,000 for the version without the Roomba. For the kind of businesses that would use these, that's probably not too bad, especially if they can disinfect a room significantly faster and at a lower cost than people hired for that purpose. And while you could probably just rig together several fluorescent light fixtures on a cart and outfit them with UV lamps and a remote power switch at a tiny fraction of the cost, the setup would require greater supervision and training to ensure that people are not entering the room while it's in operation. Many businesses would probably want those additional safety shutoff and monitoring features for additional peace of mind that someone isn't going to enter the room or improperly run the device in a room full of people, who might claim being harmed by it, potentially costing them significantly more.

    Adz_au said:
    ...They also cause ozone gas to be created which is irritating to soft lung tissues and can cause lung inflammation.
    You see these lights deployed in hospitals with operators wearing full hazmat gear to block the rays...
    Even if the light were left on 24/7, any ozone gas created by it probably wouldn't be any concern in a large building like a supermarket, especially near an entrance with lots of fresh airflow. If anything, fumes from isopropyl alcohol would likely be more harmful.

    And while people operating such equipment in hospitals might wear lots of protective equipment, they would also likely be getting exposed to a lot more over time than a customer briefly spending time near one.

    I agree that lighting a shopping cart area with a UV germicidal light probably isn't a good idea though, since at least some employees may be getting exposed to more UVC light than they probably should. And if it's continuously on, it might even damage plastic and rubber parts of the shopping carts.
    Reply
  • suntech
    Adz_au said:
    What about using far-UVC light at 222 nanometers ??
    Recent studies have been shown Far-UVC to be as efficient as conventional germicidal UV light in killing microorganisms while also suggesting that these wavelengths do not cause the human health issues associated with direct exposure to conventional germicidal UV light.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67211-2
    No, there is still a doubt that if people can work under the exposure of 222nm uvc light all days, it has still to be proved the long-term effect of 222nm uvc light to people even if it can penetrate into human skin and the layer of eyes. As USHIO( a famous America maufacturer of 222nm uvc light) studies show, people are not allowed to receive 22mj 222nm uvc light per day.
    Reply
  • suntech
    I still agree that 222nm far uvc light is safe for human disinfection under the situation that you don't receive 22mj/day, if you are interested in 222nm far uvc light, click here to know more: https://www.suntechleds.com/far-uvc-lamp-light/far-uvc-excimer-light-accessory/far-uvc-tube/far-uvc-222nm-led-tube-light.html
    Reply