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How robots may be used to help fight EbolaAs the virus continues to ravage parts of Africa, scientists and engineers at US universities are brainstorming ways tech and robots can help in the crisis. And robotics researchers at UC Berkeley are part of the discussion, as CNET's Kara Tsuboi reports.
[MUSIC] With more than 5,000 deaths from Ebola its become a difficult disease to contain because of its contagious nature. We're gonna have to stay vigilant. And we've gotta make sure that we're working together. At the encouragement of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, scientists are meeting in Massachusetts, Texas, Washington D.C. and at UC Berkeley. To see if robots could be of assistance. So the great thing about putting a robot in there is that you can then, basically keep people out of harm's way. UC Berkeley robotics professor Ken Goldberg says in the coming months they're looking at whether telepresence robots like the ones created by InTouch Health. This helped doctors remotely diagnose an Ebola patient. When you are trying to diagnose a patient, there is a lot of nuance, you want to be able to look from different angles, look at different parts of the patient. Robots could also help with clean up and decontamination, although there is still one major obstacle to overcome. Most robots have wheels. Well those can immediately get in, contaminated. And we don't know actually, how to sterilize them. Because there's to, there, there's too many intricate moving parts. In the long term several years down the road Goldberg says the focus is on whether robots can assist in treating Ebola and other patients by inserting IVs. Can we use new imaging techniques. To be able to find the vein more accurately, and then robotic device that would actually be able to position a needle more acccurately. Robots may also be taped in the future to help with biolab experiments involving contagious diseases. That right now robots have a tough time perceiving transparent glass vials like beakers,. Goldberg says this current Ebola crisis is a wake up call to accelerate technology. The reality is that robots are not, the capabilities are, are limited right now. There's lots of research that needs to be done. So we just want to set expectations that, we're not, This is not gonna save the day. But he says they hope to be ready for the next health crisis. In San Francisco. I'm Kara Tsuboi, www.CNET.com for CBS News.