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19 May 2022

New BEAM robot allows sick children to connect with Irish soccer stars

New BEAM robot allows sick children to connect with Irish soccer stars

A new FAI BEAM Robot allows the Irish international players connect with their young fans who are suffering with illness, injury or incapacitation. 

The new partnership was launched during the recent international football window when young Ireland fanatic Simon Smyth from Swords, Dublin got up close and personal with Stephen Kenny’s squad using the new FAI BEAM Robot sponsored by DHL.

In a trial run of the new robotic equipment, Simon was able to meet and chat with members of the Republic of Ireland squad from the comfort of his own home, using and controlling this unique telepresence robotic equipment.

The main intention of the BEAM robot is to provide ill, injured or incapacitated children and young people with the opportunity to visit a stadium, attend a match, a training session or indeed any football event remotely.

The robot is equipped with software that allows real interaction with the robot becoming the mouth, eyes, and ears of the young fan.

Through an app, the young fan can join the players in the stadium or training ground making it possible for a fan who cannot attend the match due to illness or injury to join the players line-up in the tunnel, be pitch-side, and interact with the players.

FAI Community Development Manager, Derek O’Neill said: “This is a great innovation and we are delighted to partner with DHL to make it accessible to young Ireland fans who may not be able to access a stadium or a match. Children with a serious illness or injury can feel socially isolated and excluded and this isolation and exclusion can lead to even poorer mental and physical health.

"The BEAM robot programme can provide access for children who are hospitalised, incapacitated or undergoing treatment from home to enjoy the experience of visiting their favourite football club and perhaps meeting their favourite players through a robot that is remotely controlled by the child themselves.”

"The FAI intends to make the robot available to League of Ireland clubs to assist their community outreach. Many LOI clubs already deliver great programmes and activities to include young and older people locally and the BEAM robot can further increase the club’s community engagement capacity by providing an opportunity to reach local children who through illness may have become isolated or disconnected from the live sport experience," Mr O'Neill said. 

Research shows that providing opportunities like this BEAM technology for children who are hospitalized long term or who are incapacitated can increase both their psychological and physiological wellbeing.

Considering that over 80% of children follow football to some degree, and more than 50% consider themselves fans, football has enormous scope to help children with illness.

Speaking of the launch of the BEAM robot, Brian Murray, Commercial Director at DHL Express Ireland said: "At DHL, our company’s Purpose is Connecting People and Improving Lives and we are delighted to collaborate on such an incredible initiative with the FAI, to connect sick children with their heroes.

"The past number of years have been extremely difficult, particularly for children who are hospitalised and isolated. Working with the FAI and our Charity partner Children’s Health Foundation, we are very excited to provide numerous children in Ireland with unique experiences through sport that they will never forget”.

Already many children have enjoyed a unique robot experience at clubs like FC Barcelona, be it a match-day, a training session or club tour.

The children involved said that for the time they were operating the telepresence robot, it felt like they were outside the hospital and that they also felt closer to the outside world.

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