Business Scene: Robots and Hand Sanitizer

This is Business Scene. I’m Ira Mellman. While other industries struggle, Liu Zhiyong
says China’s COVID-19 outbreak is boosting demand for his knee-high, bright yellow grocery
delivery robots. Liu, CEO of ZhenRobotics Corp., is among millions
of entrepreneurs who are gradually getting back to work after China declared victory
over the coronavirus that shut down the world’s second-largest economy. ZhenRobotics’ flagship model is the six-wheeled,
68-centimetre-tall RoboPony. Controlled through a smartphone app, the RoboPony
can carry 40 kilograms and travel at up to ten kilometer per hour. Demand for e-commerce soared after the government
cut most access to cities with a total of 60 million people in late January, due the
new coronavirus outbreak. The epidemic made people aware of the fragility
of human beings and robots can make up for this vulnerability and provide services that
people can trust. Trust in robots has been enhanced dramatically. One of Liu’s robots now patrols Shanghai’s
Taikoo Hui shopping mall. It’s able to spot shoppers with bare faces
and remind them to put on a mask. It also dispenses hand sanitizer and broadcasts
anti-virus information. Liu plans to step up research into disinfection
by ultraviolet light and other possible hygiene-related features. The company has placed many orders to its
suppliers and plans to produce 90 robots in the next six weeks. Raoul Masangcay knows how to make good beer. His bar and restaurant in Manila brews its
own ales and spirits. But the new coronavirus pandemic has hit the
Philippines too and means Masangcay has no customers for his beverages. So he and his staff are using their alcohol
expertise to help the country fight COVID-19. They have shifted to producing sanitizer. “When we heard about this alcohol shortage
and people are hoarding it in groceries and stores, we actually started producing some
alcohol for our own use, we use them as sanitizers at our brewery, and we started to make some
so that we can give some to our customers too. The micro-brewery and restaurant began making
the sanitizer a few months ago, just for its own use and as gifts for customers. But as he realized health workers were struggling
to get hold of enough for themselves, Masangcay decided to offer his assistance. President Rodrigo Duterte declared an “enhanced
community quarantine” the country’s main northern region of Luzon, which includes the densely
populated capital of Manila. It requires millions of people to stay mostly
at home and restricts land, air and sea travel. Only one member of a family can leave home
to buy food, officials said, but many establishments are closed, and long lines of people wait
in front of supermarkets in metropolitan Manila. For Business Scene, I’m Ira Mellman.

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