Sick children are linking up with special robots to virtually visit the zoo to see the animals without leaving their hospital beds.
‘Children’s Bear’ robots are being introduced at Poznan Zoo in the city of Poznan in western Poland’s Greater Poland Voivodeship region in the futuristic project.
Video Credit: CEN/Don Vittorio Foundation for Wild Animals
It is already being tested and the aim is to eventually expand the scheme so sick children can virtually explore museums, parks, beaches and zoos all over the world.
Resembling electronic tablets on wheels, the robots are linked to tablets given to children who can direct them around the zoo to see the animals in real time.
The sick children will even be able to interact with other zoo visitors as their face will be displayed on the screens of the robots.
Lukasz Bodnarowski, from the Don Vittorio Foundation for Wild Animals, came up with the idea after his own son Borys, eight, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
He has already used it to allow Borys, who is currently being treated at a hospital in the Spanish city of Barcelona, to tour the Poznan Zoo from his bed.
The project is being developed in partnership with Poznan’s Wiktor Dega Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Clinical Hospital.
Mr Bodnarowski told Central European News (CEN): “A year ago, my son was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“As we are a foundation caring for wild animals, I decided to start a programme that would involve sick children and the world of animals, making use of education and the latest technology.”
Poznan Zoo spokeswoman Malgorzata Chodyla said the first robot, called Leos, was already undergoing tests in selected areas of the zoo.
She told Central European News (CEN): “It’s an excellent idea and we enthusiastically agreed to cooperate with the foundation.
“Children are the most important guests of our zoo and if there are children who would like to visit us but can’t, we’ll do everything we can to make it possible for them.”
Ms Chodyla added: “At the moment trials are underway. Leos is transmitting images and sounds from our zoo to children in the hospital in Poznan.
“The robot moves around the zoo, like the various animal enclosures, as well as places normally inaccessible to visitors, for example to show children how to bathe an elephant or feed the animals.
“The robot will always be accompanied by a foundation volunteer in case of problems in moving around the terrain and to help the robot around difficult corners.”
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Story By: Bartosz Staszewski, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News