Boy with rare disease to send robot to school in his place

A 10-year-old boy with a rare condition that keeps him out of school is trialing a robot to send to class in his place. 

Keir Wallace is one of only two people in the U.K. and just 27 people in the world diagnosed with the incurable auto-immune disease FCAS2. 

It causes severe pain in his joints and last year he was too ill to attend a quarter of his school classes. 

But the youngster has been given a new robot, called the AV1, to trial at home and hopes it will soon be going to school on his behalf. 

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The robot would let him "see" the whole classroom by using a 360-degree camera on its head and Keir would be able to speak directly to the class through a loudspeaker. 

By pressing buttons on a tablet he would also be able to "put his hand up" to answer questions with flashing lights on the robot announcing he wants to take part. 

And if he is in too much pain to take part he can simply sit back and watch the lessons through a camera from the comfort of his bed at home. 

Keir has even put his school tie on the machine so it will fit in with fellow pupils at St John's R.C. School in Portobello, Edinburgh. 

His family are currently using the robot on a trial basis at home while they wait for permission to take it into school. 

They hope Edinburgh City Council will eventually help fund one of the nearly $3,000 robots for him permanently. 

"The robot allows Keir to keep in touch with his friends outside of school as well as attend classes," John Wallace, Keir's dad, said. "It means that he's able to see and speak to everyone that he normally wouldn't be able to when off from school."

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"And because the robot doesn't have a screen for him to Skype into lessons, his classmates won't see him when he's in severe pain," he said. "With the robot, he would be able to attend and actively take part in more lessons than he currently does which is so important for attaining better grades." 

"I think this is the world's first ideal solution ever invented that deals with Keir's exact holistic needs and allows him to take part in school," Wallace said. "Anyone who has seen it immediately likes it. We've had support from the First Minister, our local MP and the leader of the Scottish LibDems who all seemed to love it." 

"I would like the council to help fund the robot which will allow Keir to be a more active student and stop him from missing so much school," Wallace said. 

The robot was developed by Norwegian company No Isolation to help children who spent a lot of time in hospital to continue to take part in lessons. 

It is specifically designed for those with long-term illnesses and is controlled via an app from the child's home or bed. 

Each one costs nearly $3,000 and a $120 fee is charged for the 4G data link which connects it with the terminal at home. 

Edinburgh City Council said they were considering Keir's request for the robot.