Internet Connected Robots Provide Kids Companionship

Robots that are connected to the internet and proving to be helpful with children who are kept home due to extended illness or those that face life-threatening illnesses that prevent them from going to school.

Studies have shown they have helped those young, and even seniors, to remain connected to the outside world. It allows them to share experiences with friends and family preventing a feeling of being isolated.

One of those impacted by having one is 16 years old Zoe Johnson. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, which is also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is an illness that is debilitating and affects the immune and nervous system. As a result, Johnson was absent from school far more than she was attending. That saw her friendships with those at school disappear over time as she was too sick to spend time with friends.

Recently, she got an AV1 telepresence” robot that has allowed her to begin taking classes with those she use to attend school with. The robot is manufactured by a start-up company No Isolation and allowed her to sit in a virtual classroom by live streaming classes via a tablet. It allows her to participate by speaking through the robot and control where the robot is looking.

The robot is designed so that when Zoe has a question, it will alert the teacher using a blinking red light. If she is sick, she has the ability to turn on a blue light so as to alert the teacher she is resting ore unable to participate in class. Johnson says that it has increased the excitement she feels in her daily life, and she feels as if she no longer is forgotten. As a result of acquiring the robot, Johnson was able to take exams this year.

The co-founder of No Isolation, Karen Dolva, developed the idea based on feedback a nursing friend provided her. Dolva’s friend worked in a ward with children who were hospitalised for extended periods and the misery they felt in so far as isolation and the inability to have a resemblance of normalcy.

The led Dolva and several friends with backgrounds in technology and engineering to visit the children and talk to them in so far as what they would want to have in a personal robot. What was determined was that the typical smartphone app were not enough and that more was needed.

They wanted to be able to see what was taking place in the classroom but not be on a display where others could see them in hospital. They also wanted the ability to hear all that was taking place in the classroom as well.

Growing segment in the market

This is an area that unfortunately is growing. While most deadly diseases and illness are not treatable, many still remain untreatable through conventional medicine. In the sixties, less than 2% of children had a health-related illness that kept them from school, today, that number has grown to over 8%. As a result, the use of telepresence robots is seeing growth by the likes of No Isolation and others such as Double Robotics and Giraff Technologies. While these are incredibly beneficial, they cost several thousand dollars, the AVI, for example, runs close to $2500usd but can be rented for around $200 a month.