A Taiwanese Medtech company called Brain Navi has a new plan to speed up COVID-19 tests around the world: automated sinus swabs, adapted from a robot originally designed to prep patients for brain surgery.
Here's how The Verge explains the roboprocess:
To begin the procedure, a patient dons a nasal clip that the machine uses to orientate itself. They then place their head in a metal bracket similar to those used for eye examinations (gripping the handle bars like you're riding the world's worst rollercoaster is apparently optional). A depth-sensing camera then scans their face and measures the distance from nostril to ear canal, which Brain Navi says is a reliable proxy for the depth of the nasal cavity, and helps the robot navigate safely inside you.
The robot then retrieves a cotton swab from it base and, with torturous slowness, approaches the victim patient. It inserts the swab, twirls it, then withdraws, placing the sample in a sterile tube for transportation and analysis.
Just so we're clear, this robot relies entirely on 3D imaging to guide its way through your sinuses, and does not have any kind of pressure sensors to let it know if it might be causing pain. But that's OK — as a company spokesperson explained, if anything does wrong, the patient always has the option to pull away from the robot arm shoving its a claw up its nose!
Apparently it's actually pretty safe though (although the hurdle of patient comfort is hard to overcome). More details, and interview with the founder, at the links.
Please remain calm while the robot swabs your nose [James Vincent / The Verge]
Brain Navi develops new robot that performs nasal swab tests autonomously [Dean Koh / Mobi Health News]