Professor Bear meets ‘Mr Whittles’

Professor Ted’s Journal – July 2017

I have had so many exciting days with my U3A friends but today may be the best. Today I am being introduced to Mr Whittles. “Who is Mr Whittles” you ask? Well I am not sure myself! We are meeting at the Whittlesea Library in the township of Whittlesea. This new U3A class, Discussion over Coffee for members in the North, has asked me to attend, so of course I said yes and I am off to Whittlesea. This is my first ride to the Whittlesea township and I was astonished to find it was forty kilometres from the Central Business District of Melbourne.

I am in wonder at the number of new homes and traffic as we head north from suburbia to countryside. Then different scenery of the river gums undulating hills with cattle and green grass everywhere. Many flocks of squawking white sulphur crested cockatoos, flying dangerously across the road as if they were daring each other in a game of chance, or maybe testing each other to find the tastiest seeds for their lunch. As we approach the township I see the large amusement park called Funfields; I was told it rivalled the Gold Coast amusement parks! It has so many rides, even blackouts and whiteouts, is a world of outdoor fun. I must come back in the warmer weather!

The new Whittlesea library is so inviting with lots of open space including community rooms but today we are going into the large space; more room for Mr Whittles! Looking around I only saw my class mates, “where is Mr. Whittles”? To my amazement I found that Mr Whittles is an interactive robot. An innovative pilot program that involves a telepresence robot on a miniature Segway-style base with an iPad mounted on a telescopic pole to engage isolated seniors in their community. The Whittlesea library is the first public library in Australia to use this style of robot to allow aged care and house bound residents to engage and reconnect with the community.

Mr. Whittles can be used in two-way conversations using iPads and he is remotely commanded. Footage from the library and other events can be streamlined live and can be watched on a big screen, TV, laptop or iPad so that the participants can then engage in comfort. WOW I was blown away by this robot and Mr Whittles and I got along famously. I was allowed to help Mr Whittles’ custodian, Librarian Coralie, in her excellent presentation to our class.

My wish list is to have a Mr Whittles at Whittlesea U3A to be used by our members, any of the 660 when they are unable to attend classes, or can even be watched in hospital or by other seniors in our community. This presentation of Mr Whittles has made me realise so much happiness can be achieved when isolate seniors could participate. Sorry Mr Whittles, you cannot participate in the mouth-watering morning tea, but we must meet again to learn to work together with this new innovated technology.

A link to Mr Whittles