As phobias go, trypanophobia — or the fear of needles — is one of the more rational ones to have. It’s fairly natural to be scared of somebody wanting to stick a sharp bit of metal into your skin, after all.

The problem is that Covid-19 — and other diseases neutered by vaccination — aren’t terribly sympathetic to human phobias, so getting stuck by a needle is just the price of not getting sick and potentially hospitalised. 

But a company called Cobionix might have the answer. It has developed an autonomous robotic arm that’s capable of delivering vaccines to patients without the need for a needle… or even another human in the room, which is handy for diseases that transmit over the air like coronavirus. 

You can see it working in the video below. No, it’s not clear why the patient has a mask on when there’s no other humans in shot, but you can’t be too careful.

As you can see, after checking for appropriate ID, the robot picks out a vial, and then uses lidar to target the ideal spot to apply the non-needle. Once painlessly applied — or it didn’t make the patient burst into tears, in any case — the robot then puts the used vial in a compartment off-puttingly labelled “DANGER BIOHAZARD” where it can be safely disposed of. The patient does still need to apply their own alcohol swab to disinfect the arm before and after, mind.

So, how does a robot inject a vaccine without a needle? That’s technology developed by another company, where a high-pressure jet of fluid can be passed through a hole no thicker than a human hair. Hence, no needle.

If Cobionix can upgrade the robot to make some inconsequential smalltalk to take nervous patients’ minds off of things, then a whole bunch of doctors and nurses’ time could be freed up. And it means any vaccination slowdown caused by labour shortages could be averted, too.

Unfortunately, it’s unavailable to join the global fight against Covid-19, with the company saying it’s about two years away from being ready for its global health debut. Hopefully coronavirus will be a distant memory by then, but cheer up: the next pandemic might be just around the corner.