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Opinion

Robot in Kerala Voting Booth Tells Voters to Follow Covid-19 Rules

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Sivaraman Nair (68), a retired government official, was surprised Thursday morning when he arrived at his voting booth in the Ernakulam community hall to vote at the local polls.

In the voting booth, there was a robot that greeted him, took his temperature, gave him disinfectant and instructed him in a sweet voice to keep the required distance in place amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Named Sayabot, the robot completed its task in one minute. Nair had read about robots in Japan and China, but this was the first time he encountered one, also in a crowded voting booth. Sayabot appears to have overwhelmed both voters and officials.

When another voter arrived, his temperature was slightly high and he immediately advised him to approach the voting officer and exercise his right to vote separately to avoid possible infection to others. He went on to remind another voter who wore his mask casually to cover his nose properly.

“Perhaps this is the first time that a robot has been deployed in a voting booth in the country. It is doing its job perfectly. He imposed discipline and distancing in style. This is on a trial basis and after evaluating its success, we will implement it elsewhere after consulting with the election commissioner and others, ”said S Suhas, Ernakulam district collector.

Sayabot was developed by a Kochi-based start-up company, Asimov Robotics. “We are manufacturing a multipurpose humanoid service robot, called the Sayabot. It is a versatile robot that can be customized to perform assigned tasks with precision and accuracy, ”said Asimov Robotics CEO T Jayakrishnan.

He said the robot at the polling station was developed two days after the district administration approached his company. He said Sayabot robots were deployed in the banking, education and hospitality sectors in the state and abroad.

Elections began Thursday morning in five districts (Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Wayanad) in the second phase of the local body elections. The highly contested vote is crucial for the state’s main parties ahead of the assembly elections to be held in April-May.

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