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23 Jun 2023

Bursting the bubble of isolation with SpecialEffect

Bursting the bubble of isolation with SpecialEffect

The UK-based charity SpecialEffect are best known for helping people with physical challenges across the world to play video games to the best of their abilities, but this mission of inclusion extends to raising quality of life in other surprising ways too. 

Many children with immunity deficiencies can’t go to school for months or sometimes years because of a high infection risk – which means they’re no longer able to learn and play with their friends when they need them most. Our BubbleBusters service tackles this long-term medical isolation through the use of small, friendly, home-controlled desktop robots that place the child’s eyes, ears and voice right back into the classroom and playground. It’s providing life-changing reconnections that overcome loneliness, reuniting friends and rekindle access to education.

The specialist AV1 desktop robots that we use in our BubbleBusters project take the child’s place in the classroom and playground, and the young person’s personality shines through them. The child is able to hear, see and speak to their friends and teacher from their home or hospital bed using a mobile phone or tablet. Crucially, there is no screen on the front of the robot so if the child is uncomfortable being seen due to the effects of their medication or perhaps their location, that privacy is maintained.

Seren’s one of the young people who’ve benefitted from the project. “I could do school at hospital,” she said, “And I liked that the teachers knew that I knew the answers still.”

“Seren loves school,” added her mother. “Because of the robot she knew they hadn’t forgotten her and she had so many positive experiences; ten out of ten in spelling tests, reading her creative writing to her teacher and even playing games with her friends during Friday afternoon golden time

The Assistant Head at one of the schools where one of our BubbleBuster robots is representing a child said “It’s funny, you almost forget he’s not here, because the robot does represent him and has become part of the school. He’s in the whole school photograph, and being held in that picture. I think he feels less absent, especially from his friendship group.”

We’ve seen time after time how the other children in class relate so well to the personality of the robots. Classmates take them to the playground at break time and on school trips, and during the holidays they’re often to be found at the houses of friends and relations, helping our BubbleBuster children to keep in touch in social situations.

As with all our services, the loan and support of our BubbleBuster robots is provided at no charge, so we rely exclusively on fundraising to keep our doors open. You can donate here

Find out more about BubbleBusters and all our other life-changing services at

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