Norwegian researchers have developed a novel way to keep children recovering from long-term illness connected to their friends and their education from their sickbed. An avatar robot is placed at the child's desk and controlled by the pupil from their home via cameras, microphones, and speakers, allowing them to contribute to lessons and avoid the crippling social isolation caused by long-term absence. Matthew Stock reports.
A Norwegian startup hopes to end the loneliness of children with long-term illness. By having an avatar represent them in the classroom Long days at home without school or friends can be traumatic for children who are very ill. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANNEFI TROYE, MOTHER OF DAUGHTER WHO DIED AFTER SUFFERING FROM LEUKAEMIA, SAYING: "The isolation was worse, much worse than the diagnosis, the pain and the treatment." Oslo-based firm No Isolation has created AV1 to enable seriously sick children to take part in the school day from their bedroom The robot is placed where the child usually sits and can be carried between classes and the playground by friends (SOUNDBITE) (English) KAREN DOLVA, NO ISOLATION CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, AT DESK, SAYING: "This is an avatar, so an extension of yourself. So it sits at the child's desk in the classroom and the child uses a tablet or a phone to start it, control its movement with touch, talk through it; so it's the eyes and the ears and the voice at school." The child can participate in class by speaking through the robot with their own voice And the robot is a hardy machine It can survive tumbles from desk height and it's water resistant in case of showers at break time (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARIUS AABEL, NO ISOLATION CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER AND CO-FOUNDER, SAYING: "Inside the robot we gave a small computer, which is almost like a regular computer, just smaller - and it's connected to the phone network 4G and that is connected to a small card that controls the robot. So we have the computer and we have the control card [holding them up] and the control card makes the robot move and it can tilt the head, and also it contains amplifier for the microphone and for the speaker." The creators are developing the robot to enable it to communicate when the child only wants to observe lessons and doesn't feel sociable No Isolation will distribute the first batch of Avatars this month