Robot avatar gives sick child a VIP visit to the zoo

  • Thursday 10, September 2020 10:00 PM
Sharjah 24 - Reuters: A mini robot is helping children with long-term sickness overcome their isolation and loneliness.
AV1 is a telepresence robot that can become their eyes and ears on visits to the zoo or days in school, via an app on their phone or tablet.

"Absolutely life changing for Fynle," said Phil Jones, 8-year-old Fynle's dad.

His son was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year and surgery left him paralysed and unable to speak.

Now cancer-free and in remission, he is shielding at home because of the risk of infection but has let AV1 be his eyes and ears, and his voice.

"Fynle's been able to join in lessons, he's been able to go into the playground with his friends whilst he's been home having chemo (chemotherapy). It's been brilliant. Absolutely superb," Jones said.

The AV1 device is a camera platform with a speaker and a microphone with an internal SIM card and wifi capability that can be controlled remotely.

No Isolation, AV1's developers, call it a telepresence robot that allows children or young adults with immunodeficiency to connect with their friends or classmates.

"For children that can't physically come to the zoo, or be in school for example, AV1 allows them to do that virtually through telepresence. So, they can access the AV1, the livestream of what they're seeing, and it gives them a very personal view through their own avatar and opportunities which they wouldn't otherwise have," No Isolation's George Howe said.

On his visit to ZSL (Zoological Society of London) London Zoo, Fynle was given a personal tour which included visiting the meerkats, penguins, lions, gorillas and a Komodo Dragon.

"It's more important now than ever before to connect with animals, especially after lockdown where we have been shut in a lot more, we have been cut off from each other, and from animals, and from the wild," said ZSL London Zoo presenter Ben Isherwood.

"We really, really, really pride ourselves on is our ability to connect people," Isherwood said, "and remind us all that there is a bigger wider world out there that needs our help."

Fynle was provided with his AV1 by gamers charity Special Effect who are trialling several different kinds of telepresence technology to provides life-changing links for sick children.