New family-robots help limit corona infection

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Small telerobots, which make everyday life safer because they help prevent the spread of viruses, have proved their worth during the Covid-19 pandemic, which in general has given digitalization a boost. We will see more of this kind of everyday-robot, says a futurist - and an expert in digital innovation believes that the pandemic has generally given nuance to our view of technology.

A small telerobot, which can be controlled via a smartphone, is currently helping families and schools/students to keep in close contact without being physically close to each other and thus exposing others to be infected with the coronavirus.

The telerobot is called Fable Connect and was developed by the Danish robot-company Shape Robotics in collaboration with the pediatric cancer department at Rigshospitalet in Denmark. The original purpose was for the little robots to help long-term hospitalized patients stay in touch with family and school. Then came Covid-19 and all the restrictions in terms of working together, going to school together, and visiting each other privately for weekdays and holidays.

"Our telerobot was developed before anyone had heard of the coronavirus or thought about how a pandemic might affect our everyday lives," says David Johan Christensen, CEO of Shape Robotics, "but as the world changes, so does the technology." And then a small robot developed for hospital and educational use can suddenly play a positive role in maintaining contact in everyday life without exposing others to the risk of infection.”

Robots that are easy to use are the future

The Fable Connect robot allows the visitor to see and hear, move around and talk.

“Being able to turn and move freely gives the visitor a strong feeling of being included, even if one is not physically present in the room. And then it is both an easy and fun way to communicate ", says David Johan Christensen.

An important point, says Carsten Beck, who is a research leader and futurist at the Institute for Futures Studies, where he works with analyzing trends that shape and affect our future.

“The pandemic has made the value of being digitally present clearer in the lives of Danes. Robots have traditionally had a slightly negative reputation as something that is stupid and troublesome to handle. One should never underestimate convenience. They must be easy to use, and there must very well be an element of play if they are to be more integrated into the everyday lives of ordinary families ", says Carsten Beck and continues:

”Digital forms of communication that make it more fun, better and possible in practice to be together at a safe distance - and which are also easy to use for the elderly - will be used more in the future. Although, of course, the need for a real hug from Grandma never goes away.”

The pandemic has created/given nuance to the Danes' understanding of technology

Anders Hvid, is a partner at the think tank Dare Disrupt, where he advises on technological innovation and digitization. He emphasizes that the pandemic and the need to limit the spread of infection have opened the eyes of many people to how big a role technology and digital tools can play in our everyday lives and society.

“I would not say that we have become more technology-loving, but we have become more nuanced. In this time that we’re live in, it is important for everyone to be able to understand the technology and put it in context to their own lives and work. The development of robot technology is impressive. Very few people probably understand how far we are.”

“If we are to benefit from robot technology, all of us must have a better understanding of what a robot can and cannot do. Where it can be put into play and where it does not make sense. In my opinion, it is important that we democratize the use of robots so that they do not end up as mysterious, alienating actors who are controlled by others,” says Anders Hvid.

David Johan Christensen, CEO of Shape Robotics, agrees.

“My heart beats for technology that in a concrete and present way can help people who are having a hard time for one reason or another. With the second wave of Covid-19 that came during the autumn, there is once again a lot of people who are prevented from being physically close to each other. If a small family-robot such as Fable Connect can enhance the feeling of closeness and personality by removing the feeling of distance while reducing the spread of infection, our mission has succeeded this time around,” he says.


In-depth comments and demo of Fable Connect:

David Johan Christensen, CEO Shape Robotics A / S

Tel. (+45) 2685 0903