Interview with Hans Fredrik Vestneshagen, Relations Manager, No Isolation, Oslo
A child who has to miss many days of school due to long-term illness? An older adult living alone or in a nursing home? The Norwegian startup No Isolation believes that nobody should have to experience social isolation, no matter how old you are. The company uses technology to help combat loneliness.
Hans Fredrik Vestneshagen, Relations manager, No Isolation
Mr. Vestneshagen, what is No Isolation’s objective?
Fredrik Vestneshagen: Our team at No Isolation wants to make sure that nobody has to live in involuntary loneliness or social isolation. That’s our mission. Technology can help us reach this goal.
You developed the AV1 robot. What can it do and what makes it so unique?
Vestneshagen: We started to develop AV1 four years ago. Prior to that, we talked to children with cancer and realized that many of them actually didn’t focus on their physical issues and limitations, but talked about the social isolation they experience as a result of their condition. That prompted us to develop AV1.
AV1 is actually not a real robot, but an avatar. As such, it doesn’t have artificial intelligence and is merely a webcam with extra features.
Where and how is AV1 used?
Vestneshagen: Nearly 1000 children are using the AV1 robot today. There are many reasons for its use. Since we only collect and store a limited amount of data, we are unable to pinpoint the number of children that currently use our robot, their age or the diseases they suffer from, though we know that many of them have cancer. These children spend a long time in isolation at hospitals. Some children have MS or a broken leg and are unable to attend school for six weeks or more.
AV1 is used in school settings. It is placed at the desk where the child would normally be sitting. Some use the robot for 10 minutes, others up to six hours a day. It really depends on the person and situation.
The AV1 enables children to participate in classes even if they are physically absent from school due to illness.
KOMP is another product you designed. Who is the target audience for KOMP?
Vestneshagen: In a way, KOMP is the AV1 successor. Right from the start, people kept asking us whether the AV1 robot might also be an option for older adults and if grandparents or parents in nursing homes could use it as well. These inquiries have shown us that there is a demand in this age bracket. However, we have come to realize that the AV1 robot is not really suited to support the needs of older people. You need some technical skills to use the device. For starters, you need a tablet to operate it. However, older adults often tend to have difficulties using a touchscreen.
That's why we have created an easy-to-use product that does not require any technological tools such as a tablet or smartphone.
This year you were a speaker at the MEDICA ECON FORUM. As a startup, how important is it for you to participate in an event like the MEDICA trade fair?
Vestneshagen: As a startup, it’s extremely important to take part in an event like this. Right now, we only have a small team of 24 employees, who work in Oslo and London. For us, it is a wonderful opportunity to come to Germany and share our company vision with an international audience. It gives us a chance to meet current and future partners, perhaps even parents, who care for sick children. In short, it is very important for us to be here.
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