RMHCNA is using a new robot to demonstrate the powerful effect that digital connections can have on humans’ lives. Thanks to Cybera, Alberta’s not-for-profit technology accelerator, a robot is on loan to the House and has allowed staff, families and House Heroes to interact with colleagues and friends in a more personal way.

The robot operates like a video conference tool with wheels. It can be driven by the person dialing in, allowing them to look and move around on the robot as though they were actually in the building. It gives a physical presence to those who are not able to be there in person.

Since moving to RMHCNA in March 2016, the Double Robotics device has become a valued tool for children in the hospital to interact with friends in the House, and to pick out a toy from the Magic Room. This room contains hundreds of donated toys, from which House Heroes (or their families) are invited to choose on special occasions. If the patient is too ill to physically go to the Magic Room, the robot still gives them the opportunity to choose their own toy.

Cybera staff joined RMHCNA in a virtual kindness patrol, where five children in a nearby hospital chose toys from the Magic Room for themselves and for their friends, which were delivered to them later in the day.

“Technology and innovation allows our families to access opportunities and experiences they would never have had before,” says Martin Dugas, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta. “We are able to change the trajectory of a family’s day by inviting them in to the Magic Room to experience some fun and joy.”

The robot has also become a useful tool for staff to use to interact with other Ronald McDonald House Charities across the continent.

“It is amazing to see the happiness of children or adults who are able to visit with family or friends who are far away, or be able to move about in one building when they are physically restricted to another,” says Barb Carra, Vice President of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at Cybera. “This just shows the importance of digital connections! From Cybera’s perspective, it validates the work we are doing to improve network connections and access to computing resources in Alberta.”