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The future is bright, the future is robots, for children in hospital

Published
15.02.2019

‘AV1’ telepresence robots are part of a cutting edge technology project being piloted by the county council’s Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES) to support children suffering from long term physical and mental ill health.

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When a child is unwell, and cannot go to school, it is not just their academic studies that will suffer. Interrupted attendance can affect their friendships, emotional wellbeing and future prospects. The telepresence robot, AV1, helps children in hospital, or being cared for at home, to remain part of their school community easing the transition of the pupil back into full-time education when well enough.

The AV1 Robot sits in the classroom in place of the child. The child can access its vision and sound via a tablet or mobile app from home, or from a location outside the home including hospital. The child controls the AV1 and can ‘raise its hand’, indicate when they would like to talk, show when they are thinking and even how they are feeling. Friends and teachers can talk directly to the child – the next best thing to actually being there!

Dennis, aged 10, has already benefitted from using the AV1. He has named his new robot friend ”Bobzy” and uses him via the GHES Schoolroom at Gloucester Royal Hospital to access teachers and friends - and has even joined in ukulele lessons. Dennis said: “I love being able to see teachers and my friends at school, it feels like I’m there and saves me from missing them too much.”

Cllr Richard Boyles, cabinet member for children and young people at Gloucestershire County Council said “It is very exciting to be part of this innovative pilot project and truly inspirational to see that children with a variety of long term conditions, no longer have to feel isolated and miss out on a vital part of their childhood.”

The two-year pilot project utilises part of a £522,142 grant from the Department of Education’s Alternative Provision Innovation Fund, exploring ways of providing continued education and improved outcomes for children absent from school due to long-term illness.

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