During the alleviation of the coronavirus lockdown, when liquor stores in India became crowded, Karthik Velayutham found a way to maintain social distancing-by creating robots to shop for him.

This humble machine-a cardboard box placed on a four-wheeled wooden platform-took a computer engineer two days to build it and cost Rs. 3,000 rupees.

However, it is playing a vital role for creators at a time when social interactions run the risk of contracting the coronavirus, which has infected more than 4 million people worldwide and killed 297,000.

31-year-old Velayutham told AFP: “I tried my robot into a wine shop to demonstrate how someone can use it in crowded places and to raise awareness of the importance of staying away from society to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

“I have tested the device on the street and it has no problems and runs smoothly, even on speed bumps, because I use a gear motor.”

Velayutham controls the machine from the comfort and safety of his home in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Using the robot’s built-in smartphone, he can send commands via the Internet.

He told the shopkeeper what he wanted to buy through a video call. The machine can carry a load of up to 50 kg.

Velayutham said: “The specialty of my robot is that it can be controlled anywhere in the world.”

“You can use any mobile wallet or electronic payment system to complete payments remotely.”

During the pandemic, robots have been deployed to transport food, perform health checks and even disinfect places.

Velayutham believes that his machine (with slight modifications) can put them on the front line.

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He said: “It can be used for remote interaction between hospitals and patients.”

“It can be used without restrictions-shopping, police patrols, and even in the event of a fire, it is dangerous for people.”


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