Overview

Illness won’t mean missing a thing thanks to Avatar

Helsana has already donated avatars to several hospitals as part of its commitment to society. Now it’s the turn of the rehabilitation centre for children and young people in Affoltern am Albis. Andreas Meyer-Heim, junior lecturer and medical director, reveals how Nao will be used.

The rehabilitation centre in Affoltern am Albis is part of Zurich Children’s Hospital. The centre provides therapy to children and young people with congenital disorders or after complex injuries. In the rehabilitation centre they learn how to master the challenges of everyday life and to be as independent as possible. There, the little robot Nao does a very different job to what avatars are seen doing in the film “An avatar goes to school”. “Motivating patients and getting them to play an active part in the therapy is vital if rehab is to be successful”, explains the Affoltern rehabilitation centre's medical director Dr Andreas Meyer-Heim. “Children have to feel good for them to make progress. Nao will help us out in this.” Dr Mayer-Heim wants to use Avatar Nao as an assistant in physiotherapy or sport therapy, “and in the evening Nao can help get the children to do some extra activities.” This is based on models that has already proven successful in Melbourne, where avatars are being used as motivation aids in physiotherapy.

Nao will also carry out other tasks at the centre's own school, in music therapy sessions and on the wards. “Perhaps Nao will also help stop the children feeling homesick by telling a homesick child a story, singing a song, doing a dance for them, or remembering their birthdays and wishing them a happy one.”

Scientists interested in Avatar Nao

Nao offers a lot more potential which is yet to be tapped. As a first step, the rehabilitation centre wants to explore and develop the ways avatars can be used, working together with specialists from the various disciplines involved in rehab – therapists, carers, neuropsychologists, and teachers. “Sure, we’ll have to focus on certain projects. We’ve already planned the research accompanying the 'Introducing Nao' project, which is to be carried out by a master’s student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich”, says Dr Meyer-Heim. “The reason for this is that we want to investigate the benefits of this new technology for us in the long term and also to explain them to other centres and hospitals.”

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