Ali Rashid’s invention is designed to keep people safe in the era of COVID-19 – and beyond
There’s a counterintuitive psychology to building the prototype of an invention – and Ali Al-Rashid, a PhD candidate at Qatar Foundation, seems to have intuitively captured it perfectly.
Most inventors purposely make their prototypes as utilitarian in appearance as possible. When they are focusing on the toughest engineering and design problems first, what the first version of the invention looks like is secondary. There’s also a hidden benefit, as people – especially those who may be competitors in the marketplace of ideas – can underestimate something that appears mundane and functional, and this allows the innovator the freedom to throw out ideas and make mistakes.
Most robots perform one function only, repeatedly, in a manner that is cheaper, faster, and better than a human could manage. Al-Rashid – who is studying for a PhD in computer science and engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a Qatar Foundation member – has upped the game. His squat robot on wheels doubles as a security guard and an office cleaner built for the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the daytime, it will screen and instantly verify the Ehteraz app status of people accessing a building. In the evening, it will silently prowl the halls and corridors of that building, using liquid disinfectant and UV light to thoroughly sanitize it. In doing so, it will protect cleaners from infection and security personnel from interacting with potentially infected individuals at close range.
The idea started when COVID-19 began to spread. I am now hoping to initially install the invention in buildings at Qatar Foundation
“The idea started when COVID-19 began to spread,” says Al-Rashid. “I am now hoping to initially install the invention in buildings at Qatar Foundation.”
Al-Rashid coordinated with Dr. Bo Wang, Assistant Professor at HBKU’s College of Science and Engineering, on the project. The funding for the project came from Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI), under Dr. Richard O’Kennedy, Qatar Foundation Vice President for RDI.
“The project could not have come at a better time,” said Faiha AlQahtani, Projects Lead for QF RDI’s Innovation Coupon, the initiative which supported the project. “The disinfectant robot that was remodeled in Qatar can ease people’s lives and the burden on healthcare systems in times of uncertainty.”
The potential uses for the invention – which was supported through QF RDI’s Innovation Coupon initiative - extend well beyond Qatar, as it is designed to operate in any highly-secure facility, even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
I would like to continue working in the research field, with my work being based on Artificial Intelligence and cyber security, because our country requires a focus in these fields
When asked what’s next after he completes his PhD and the launch of his invention, Al-Rashid says: “I would like to continue working in the research field, with my work being based on Artificial Intelligence and cyber security, because our country requires a focus in these fields as it evolves ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, and in order to realize Qatar’s national vision.”