How Bengaluru-based Invento Robotics' robots are taking the fight to coronavirus
Bengaluru-based Invento Robotics, which uses AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics to improve customer engagement and sales, has now turned its business focus to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
In January, while setting up office in China to expand its global reach, Invento Robotics noticed the emergence of COVID-19, and decided to focus on developing solutions to tackle the outbreak.
Invento Robotics, co-founder, Balaji Vishwanathan
Founded in 2016 by Balaji Vishwanathan, Mahalakshmi Radhakrushnan and Bharath Kumar, Invento Robotics launched Invento C-Astra earlier in April, a robot which helps in screening patients and disinfecting areas. As India relaxes lockdown norms and people slowly come out of their homes, this solution aims to screen people and help them maintain distance from infected patients.
Speaking to YourStory, Balaji explains that the semi-automatic robots use advanced thermal imaging along with natural language processing (NLP) and facial recognition technology to screen people for coronavirus.
Doctors from Healthians, their diagnostics and telemedicine partner, who are handling the robots, will be able to access the data of the patients and give results remotely without the risk of getting infected.
Robots fight coronavirus
According to Balaji, C-Astra uses thermal cameras to record the body temperature of visitors from a distance, and uses its conversation abilities to get information from them. The results help organisations decide whether they want to allow the person in.
The startup's first humanoid robot, Mitra, was designed for customer engagement. It alerts hosts about the arrival of visitors.
“This robot takes pictures of visitors and records their body temperature. It asks them for details such as name and phone number, and validates their identity. It provides these details to the organisation the person is visiting. If the visitor fails the screening test, the robot immediately connects the visitor with telemedicine support. Doctors can talk to them directly through the robot and advise accordingly,” Balaji says.
Along with screening, C-Astra is also designed to disinfect rooms and surfaces. The robot uses disinfecting UV-C lamps to disinfect a room completely in three to four minutes. This allows the use of the robotic solution in hotels to disinfect rooms.
“As India opens up and we go back to airports, public places, and hotels, disinfection of surfaces is important. C-Astra uses UV radiation with a specific wavelength, which is most effective against coronavirus and disinfects surfaces such as the bed, doors, knobs, etc,” Balaji says.
While Mitra and C-Astra are B2B solutions, the startup is launching its B2C disinfecting solution, Astra Lite, on June 1, 2020.
“This solution is meant for home disinfection. The microwave oven-sized machine can disinfect ecommerce packages and products, shoes, anything that comes from outside before the users bring it inside their home," Balaji says.
He explains that users, especially older people who are at a higher risk of getting infected, can get anything such as spectacles, gloves, masks, etc disinfected within two minutes. He adds that the solution will help people use masks for a longer period of time. “Most masks are meant for one-time use; some are washable. However, the thread of masks eventually gives away with regular washing. Disinfecting them with UV rays will increase their longevity.”
When asked about the reason for launching the company, Balaji says he was always passionate about robotics and wanted to deploy robots in situations that are difficult for human beings to tackle. He adds that he based his master’s thesis on the use and deployment of robots in earthquake-hit areas.
Invento C-Astra. Credit: Invento Robotics
Business and revenue model
Balaji says the company generates its revenue from the sale of the product. Apart from this, the company also sells extended warranty of the robots.
“There is also a software service price from the second year onwards. For the first year, however, the software comes bundled with the hardware itself,” he says.
According to Balaji, Mitra and C-Astra are available in India at a cost of around Rs 8.5 lakh. The product has also been sold to customers in the US and Middle East for $17,000. Astra Lite will be available in India for Rs 10,000 from June 1.
Balaji says their robots are currently being used in several hospitals across India, including Apollo, Fortis Hospital in Bengaluru, and Yatharth Hospital in Delhi. Apart from this, the company has also deployed C-Astra in some hotel chains for disinfection purposes.
The way forward
Speaking of future plans, the co-founder says Invento Robotics is currently looking to sell the made-in-India disinfectant robotic solution across the globe.
“In the long term, we are looking at the application of these robots in mobility. These are self-driving robots, and we are looking to use them in outdoor environments like foodtech and ecommerce delivery,” Balaji says.
Invento Robotics raised Rs 2 crore in a seed funding round earlier in January this year for development of the products to fight coronavirus. Currently, the company is looking to raise its pre-Series A round to scale up its operations across the global market.