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Elderly people virtually communicate thanks to a robot during Coronavirus crisis in Ostend, Belgium

Robots keeping elderly Belgians connected with loved ones during coronavirus

Image credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

A Belgian robotics firm is lending a fleet of robots to elderly care homes to help residents keep in contact with loved ones after the government banned visitors to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The company, Zorabots, said it would initially lend 60 of its 'James' robots to the care homes, but could make hundreds more available if required. According to the robotics firm, the 12m-tall butler-style machines can navigate rooms and connect video calls through Facebook Messenger.

Virtually communicating with loved ones

Belgian Andree Desmaelle, 76, virtually communicates with someone thanks to a robot made available by Belgian company ZoraBots for elderly people’s homes for free so that they can stay in touch with their loved ones despite the ban on visits to fight against the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), in Ostend, Belgium.

Image credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Belgium’s government has banned visitors from elderly care homes, alongside measures including limiting shop opening times and closing schools to curb the spread of Covid-19, which has infected over 1,000 people in the country and has killed five.

Jozef Gouwy, 93, looks at a robot made by ZoraBots for elderly people at home in Ostend

Belgian Jozef Gouwy, 93, looks at a robot made available by ZoraBots for elderly people’s homes for free so that they can virtually communicate with their loved ones.

Image credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

“We said, in the coming weeks we will not be able to sell, the stock is just going to sit here. Instead of letting the stock sit here, why not put it to use in a good way?” said Tommy Deblieck, Zorabots' co-CEO.

Belgian Andree Desmaelle, 76 virtually communicates with someone thanks to a robot made available by Belgian company ZoraBots for elderly people's homes for free so that they can stay in touch with their loved ones despite the ban on visits to fight against the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), in Ostend, Belgium

Image credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Nele Vandewiele, director of residential care for the Ostend city government, added that the robots could help residents who were missing contact with the outside world and their families.

Belgian Jozef Gouwy, 93, looks at a robot made available by Belgian company ZoraBots for elderly people's homes for free so that they can virtually communicate with their loved ones

Image credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

ZoraBots is an interactive and caring platform solution which runs on the world’s most popular humanoid robots, notably Pepper the robot which is often used in the education sector as well as in healthcare. “ZoraBots makes friendly, intelligent companions with just one goal: making your life better – more comfortable, fun, healthier and relaxed,” the firm says on its website.

Elderly people virtually communicate thanks to a robot during Coronavirus crisis in Ostend, Belgium

Image credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman

The company is offering its ‘James’ robots to elderly care facilities across Belgium in order to help maintain normal social intercourse during the coronavirus outbreak, as the virus continues to spread across the globe and isolation of large swathes of the population becomes necessary.

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