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Avatar Helps Children Recovering from Illness Feel Less Lonely

  • Deborah Block

A small avatar may help children who are recuperating from a long-term illness and feel isolated from their friends and classmates. The robot takes their place in school. From home or the hospital, the children can hear their teachers and friends, and even take part in class.

AV1, an avatar that represents a child who is recovering from a long-term illness and cannot go to school, can be carried between classes by the child’s friends and is placed on the desk where the child usually sits. It was developed by a Norwegian firm appropriately called No Isolation.

“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,” said Karen Dolva, a co-founder of No Isolation.

From home or a hospital bed, the recovering child can also participate in class.

“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,” said Dolva.

The avatar was designed to be resilient - water resistant and tough enough to withstand a fall from a desk. Inside AV1 is a small computer.

“It's connected to the phone network 4G and that is connected to a small card that controls the robot,” said Marius Aabel, another co-founder of No Isolation.

There’s a reason for its size and slightly humanoid appearance.

“It can’t be just a tiny camera because the other kids can’t pick it up and take it with them. This supposed to be their friend,” explained Dolva.

The robot just became available to the public, helping some children feel a lot less lonely.