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Telepresence Robot Keeps Wollongong Man Connected to Family and Carers During COVID

on the Monday, January 18, 2021

A retirement village resident of IRT Links Seaside Wollongong has caught a glimpse of the future after being selected to test drive an Ohmni telepresence robot in his home.

The robot was loaned to IRT by Canberra-based Robots 4 Good in the midst of the pandemic last year to test how the technology could help overcome social-isolation and uninterrupted access to care for home care customers during lockdown.

IRT Group Executive General Manager of Home Care Ross Gallagher says the pandemic has forced us to consider new ways of doing things, especially how we stay connected when we’re required to stay physically distant.

“If you want to see what the future of ageing in place looks like, telepresence robots could well be part of it,” Ross said.

“The robot has applications from a social connectivity perspective and a caring perspective. We’re really excited about it.”

In the context of supporting the delivery of home care services, the robot can be used to conduct care plan and budget reviews remotely, daily wellness checks to detect falls and could even be used in the future to monitor vitals and wound care.

David Robson has hosted the robot, which he has fondly named Bluey, in his home at IRT Links Seaside since late August.

The robot is a wheeled device that family and carers can remotely control to move around the home. It has a wide-angle camera on a screen with a tilting neck to ensure a wider field of view than you would have using a handheld device or computer. The robot also doesn’t require David to hold or press anything and auto-docks onto a charging station after calls.

David nominated his son Peter Robson to be able to securely access the robot remotely in order to spend time with him and check on his welfare.

“Dad has been really stoked to have the robot. We’ve had a lot of fun with it. It follows him around his home and out onto the balcony where I can see the view that Dad is seeing. It’s like having a window that looks right into Dad’s world,” Peter said.

David also tested out the robot with his IRT Home Care manager who conducted his annual home care review remotely using an encrypted dial-in link to the robot.

2020 was a year full of the unexpected, with the advent of mask-wearing, social distancing and strict lockdown rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For David, having a robot in his home to keep in touch with his son and home care workers may have been the biggest surprise of all.

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