Many find the idea of needles a necessary evil, and in a time when vaccines are as important as they've ever been, such feelings could make getting your COVID-19 vaccination that much more difficult.
Now, a company founded at the University of Waterloo’s flagship tech startup incubator has introduced the first robot capable of performing intramuscular injections. The robot is called Cobionix — Cobi for short — and it does not require a needle to deliver its dosage. Instead, it uses a high-pressure fluid jet, no thicker than a human hair, to inject the vaccine’s contents into the tissue.
“Cobi is a versatile robotics platform that can be rapidly deployed to complete tasks with 100 percent autonomy,” said Tim Lasswell, co-founder and CEO of Cobionix, in a statement. “We outfitted Cobi to use a needle-free injection technology and to demonstrate that patients could receive intramuscular injections, such as vaccines, without needles and no involvement from a healthcare professional.”
Cobi comes with many advantages. For starters, it could be an efficient way to take care of healthcare labor shortages. It's also a safer way to vaccinate people as no human workers have to be involved.
Cobi is able to scan a person's identification documents and verify if they are correct. It can then proceed to find the best spot on the patient's body to be vaccinated.
But Cobi's skills aren't limited to healthcare. Its makers say the robot can be adapted to the cleantech and hospitality industries. With some small tweaks and a few coding changes, Cobi can become an entirely new robot performing an entirely new set of tasks.
The real value of Cobi lies in the fact that it can be completely automated. Some robots work by being monitored by humans at a distance who control the machine's every movement.
But Cobi is built to be programmed to function on its own. This is likely to decrease the costs of operating the robots and to make them useful for many more applications.
Of course, the robot is not yet ready to go to market. It could take another two years before Cobi functions completely autonomously, but its makers have great hopes for it when it finally does.