The school nurse of the future could be a robot if Chinese technology catches on – but British people may be too suspicious, experts say.
Children from more than 2,000 pre-schools in the Asian country have their health checked by a machine every morning.
The Walklake robot, which has a square body and cartoon-like face, takes just three seconds to scan a child's hands, eyes and throat.
And if you notice signs of illness – for example, red eyes, skin rashes or mouth ulcers – the child may be referred to a nurse.
A British doctor said he thought parents in the UK would not want the technology and could disrupt children's learning, but another called it & # 39; a great idea & # 39 ;.
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The Walklake robot, which costs the equivalent between £ 4,500 and £ 5,700, takes just three seconds to scan the child's eyes, hands and throats
The robots use cameras to take photos of the child's face and hands, using regularly updated artificial intelligence to identify signs of illness that a nurse can be alerted to
The Walklake robot can be used to create daily reports on children's health in schools to try and stop the spread of the disease.
It has a thermometer and cameras that scan the child for symptoms of common diseases such as conjunctivitis, fever or hand, foot and mouth disease.
Walklake can help keep up with health when there aren't enough nurses or other staff, experts said.
Professor Karen Panetta, from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, told it New scientist: & # 39; It provides better health monitoring, especially in places with large populations, but not enough trained health workers. & # 39;
If the Walklake bots are used on a larger scale, Professor Panetta added, they could help detect and stop the spread of the disease.
Pre-schools use the robots, which are 100 cm long from the beginning, since 2017 to scan children between two and six years old, Walklake says.
The machines cost between £ 4,500 and £ 5,700, and can send the results of the health check to the parents of the children and permanently store the data online.
The artificial intelligence software is constantly updating and keeping track of new and developing infections, so that he knows what to look out for.
And Walklake said the robots can double as a security measure, with pictures of parents' faces to recognize who is picking up the students from school – potentially alerting teachers to kidnappers.
Dr. Stephen Hughes, an A&E physician and member of the Medical Device and Technology Research Group at Anglia Ruskin University, was skeptical.
He said the machines can be useful if they can stop the spread of infections, but the collection of personal information has caused other ethical problems.
& # 39; I think many parents in Britain treat this type of technology with suspicion & # 39 ;, he told MailOnline.
& # 39; There are clear cultural differences. People in China have to accept government surveillance, but does the average Briton have enough confidence in the system for this to work?
& # 39; We are very uncomfortable about new technology and this can be considered sinister. & # 39;
Professor Duc Pham, a professor of engineering at the University of Birmingham, is in favor of the concept.
& # 39; I think it's an excellent idea, & # 39; he said. & # 39; It is related to the & # 39; RoboNurse & # 39; which we worked on a few years ago.
& # 39; It would be useful to adopt the system here. It would improve health care for school children without putting unnecessary pressure on an NHS with a shortage of staff and with a cash band. & # 39;
A child nurse shows children how to use one of the robots, which are now in more than 2000 schools throughout China
Walklake said the robots can help monitor children's health in the absence of a large number of nurses – they are faster and more user-friendly than any child's physical examination
China has already been criticized for monitoring civilians – it was announced in January that the government was planning to use CCTV and artificial intelligence to track people on their journey through the country.
University of Bath, an expert, associate professor Joanna Bryson, told the New Scientist that there is a risk that the stored health data will be hacked or used behind people's backs.
Dr. Hughes also suggested that children with long-term illnesses could eventually be discriminated against and that minor illnesses could be disruptive.
& # 39; It is an exclusion device, & # 39; he added. & # 39; It could discriminate and could form a border that parents might not be happy with.
& # 39; Exclusion can disrupt teaching and learning and if children are not exposed to issues such as sore throat and chickenpox, this can cause problems along the line. & # 39;
Professor Nello Cristianini, the president of artificial intelligence at the University of Bristol, reiterated the concerns of Dr. Hughes.
He said: & # 39; We have a new wave of AI-based facial recognition devices that can be used for healthcare, but that also have access to personal information, also of a psychometric nature.
& # 39; Before normalizing the use of these technologies in the classroom, we must first develop a complete set of rules and regulations and principles that we miss today.
& # 39; The step from biometric identification to drawing inferences about the subject in the photo is not without ethical consequences.
& # 39; So while automatic health checks are certainly well-intentioned, they are part of a slippery slope that we need to understand before we make irreversible decisions. & # 39;
CHINA PLANS TO USE CCTV AND AI TO FOLLOW PEOPLE
The People's Liberation Army of China recently unveiled a plan to use CCTV and artificial intelligence to follow people as they move around the country.
The PLA's plan would use the country's surveillance network to find wanted citizens.
The program, known as EnsembleNet, has been trained with 2,000 clips of CCTV footage and is 90 percent accurate for identifying people, the claims of developers.
Body shapes and observable functions are spotted, remembered and scanned in other images in the database.
The program is said to be sophisticated enough to allow a disguised person & # 39; regardless of the pose or gait pattern & # 39; and even if some functions seem different.
The system was used to identify a man with a card on his front, even if the only other images were of him when his back was turned to the camera.
But there is a fear of the ethics of the big brother system.
The government is likely to use its fast-growing surveillance network to maintain the system, with some academics worried that it may be manipulated to uphold the ideology of the ruling communist party.
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