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Robot Helps Sick Children Feel Less Lonely

Norwegian researchers have developed a clever way to keep children recovering from long-term illness connected to their friends and their education. (REUTERS PHOTO)
Norwegian researchers have developed a clever way to keep children recovering from long-term illness connected to their friends and their education. (REUTERS PHOTO)
Robot Helps Sick Children Feel Less Lonely
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A small robot may help children who are recovering from a long-term illnesses in the hospital or at home.

These children may feel isolated from their friends and classmates. The robot takes their place at school. Through the robot, the children can hear their teachers and friends. They also can take part in class from wherever they are recovering.

Anyone who has had a long-term illness knows that recovering at home can be lonely. This can be especially true of children. They may feel left out.

Now, some children may have a high-tech friend to help feel less alone and that friend is a robot.

The robot is called AV1. AV1 goes to school for a child who is homebound while recovering from a long-term illness. And the child’s school friends must help. They carry the robot between classes and place the robot on the child’s desk.

A Norwegian company called No Isolation created the robot. The co-founders of No Isolation are Karen Dolva and Marius Aabel.

Dolva explains how the robot how AV1 works. She says from home, the child uses a tablet or phone to start the robot. Then they use the same device to control the robot’s movements.

At school, the robot becomes the eyes, ears and voice of the child.

"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, and talk through it. So, it's the eyes and the ears and the voice at school."

The student can take part in classroom activities from wherever they are recovering – whether at home or from a hospital bed. The robot is equipped with speakers, microphones and cameras that make communicating easy. Again, here is Dolva.

"It has speakers and microphones and cameras, and when the child speaks at home or in the hospital to his iPad it just comes out."

The avatar is designed to be tough. It is water resistant and can take a fall from a desk without damage.

Inside AV1, there is a small computer connected to a 4G network. A small camera hooked up to a small computer could do the job. But that would not be the same.

AV1 is large and looks like a human for a reason. Dolva says this is important because the robot is supposed to be a friend to the children.

"(It) can't be just a tiny camera because the other kids can't pick it up and take it with them. This is supposed to be their friend."

And robots are, quite simply, cool. The robot just became available to the public. Hopefully AV1 will help some children feel less lonely while they are absent from class.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Deborah Block reported on this story for Anna Matteo adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

left out – v. not included

homebound – adj. unable to leave home

microphone – n. a device into which people speak or sing in order to record their voices or to make them sound louder

avatar – n. computers : a small picture that represents a computer user in a game or on the Internet

illness - n. sickness

isolate - v. separated from others

tablet - n. a thin, flat surface used for writing; a small computer used for writing

desk - n. a place where people can do work, get information, or be served

network - n. a system of computers and other electronic devices that are connected to each other

absent – adj. not present at an expected place, missing