Meet Violet – the robot on a mission to tackle COVID-19

The Roboticists from Trinity College Dublin behind social assistance robot sensation Stevie are introducing the world to their newest creation – Violet, a robot with an important mission to help tackle COVID-19.

Violet has been designed by a team led by Conor McGinn, assistant professor in Trinity’s School of Engineering and co-founder of spinout company Akara Robotics.

Violet harnesses ultraviolet (UV-C) light as a virus-destroying weapon and when deployed has the added benefit of limiting direct exposure of front-line cleaning staff to harmful pathogens.

The project has involved close collaboration with Dr Michael Beckett, postdoctoral research fellow in Trinity’s Department of Microbiology, who has been responsible for the clinical testing and validation of the technology. 

Violet is portable and compact enough to be able to operate in tight, crowded spaces that are otherwise hard to clean: such as bathrooms, waiting areas, and the nooks and crannies of public transit. It also has a protective shield around the back of the light, and motion-detecting sensors so that people don’t have to vacate the area while it’s at work.  

And Violet doesn’t only work on coronavirus; UV-C irradiation has also shown to be effective on superbugs including MRSA, and C. difficile, among others. 

With support from the HSE, the Violet team recently tested the robot at Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, where they conducted tests in radiology treatment rooms presently being used to treat COVID-19 patients in need of diagnostic medical imagery. Currently, infection control procedures mandate significant waiting periods after COVID patients undergo radiology scans, leading to significant reduction in hospital workflow.

According to Dr Conor McGinn:

“Preliminary findings suggest that the Violet robot could disinfect rooms faster and more effectively than traditional chemical-based methods – this has the potential to protect staff and could go a long way to restoring capacity of critical front-line hospital equipment.”

Akara is looking to raise funding to build a more advanced version of the robot, which they hope to deploy on a permanent basis over the coming months.