Everton Football Club made technological and sporting history ahead of the Premier League match against Newcastle United on Monday 23 April by helping a child too sick to travel from home to become the world’s first ‘virtual matchday mascot’ – experiencing the excitement of going on to the pitch via a specially-designed telepresence robot carried by Everton captain Phil Jagielka.
The telepresence robot, called AV1, was designed and manufactured by Norwegian start-up, No Isolation, to help combat loneliness in children and young adults with long-term illnesses, by allowing them to attend school and social occasions through the device’s connection to a smartphone or tablet, allowing them to see, hear and communicate with others.
This was the first instance of a child being able to perform matchday mascot duties ‘remotely’, with the AV1’s integrated camera, microphone, and speaker enabling the experience of going on to the pitch.
The young fan, Jack McLinden, is a 14-year-old boy from Liverpool and lifelong Blue. He suffers from multiple health conditions and his oxygen-dependence – and use of a wheelchair – severely restricts his mobility.
However, on Monday, Jack was able to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime mascot experience through the AV1 robot; meeting various Everton players in the changing room and tunnel before being carried on to the pitch in front of a crowd of more than 39,000 by skipper Jagielka.
The AV1 was connected to Jack’s iPad at home – allowing him to see and hear the experience in real-time though the telepresence robot avatar, while comfortable in bed.
Jack is currently being given care and assistance by leading UK children’s charity WellChild
, who work with Jack’s family, and assisted in setting up the groundbreaking project.
Jack’s mother, Michelle Wignall, a WellChild ambassador, said: “Having the support from the amazing team at WellChild, from Esther our dedicated WellChild Nurse... means we’re never alone, isolated or without support. We are thrilled that, through No Isolation and Everton Football Club, Jack was able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience."
Everton's Head of Engagement Scott McLeod added: “The most important thing for everybody at the Club is that we have had the opportunity, through this amazing technology and the work with No Isolation and WellChild, to do something incredible for an inspirational young Evertonian.
"We are thrilled to have had the chance to do this for Jack and we hope it has provided him with a memory he will always treasure."