'I'm already in love' - Hayley Holt, Jack Tame mesmerised by playful robot that'll help kids during hospital stays

Breakfast hosts Hayley Holt and Jack Tame were instantly smitten by a visit from a little French robot in the studio today, whose job it is to distract kids from their gloomy stays in hosptial.

The three-foot robot was brought in by University of Auckland researcher Dr Craig Sutherland, who had the bright idea to reprogram the French designed machine to engage with sick kids after witnessing the positive effect it had on his own son during a stay in hosptial.

And after a short introduction, the clever little guy could clearly speak for himself.

"Thank you Hayley and Jack for having me here today," the humanoid robot said.

"I am from the University of Auckland, one of my jobs is to help children in hospital. Currently I am working at Starship Hospital in Auckland. Back to you Jack and Hayley."

Dr Sutherland said kids in Starship Hospital tended to not treat the robot like a toy, but more like an animal - attributing it a personality.

He said studies have been undertaken in which the presence of such robots are shown to help sick kids get over unpleasant medical procedures, such as injections.

While the children patients still feel the pain of such procedures they are more quickly distracted from them by the presence of the robot there to engage with.

And the charm of the robot also worked its magic on both Jack and Hayley. 

"Oh my god, I am already in love with the robot, so cute, I've got feelings for it," Holt said.  

A French robot is being reprogramed by Auckland university researchers to engage with sick Kiwi kids in hospital. Source: Breakfast

Health expert calls for alcohol prices and bar licence fees to increase, saying taxpayers shouldn't be footing the bill

An alcohol harm researcher is calling on the government to raise the excise tax on alcohol and increase alcohol licence fees to help pay for alcohol-related harm.

Professor Sally Casswell, director of Massey University's Social Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation Centre, says taxpayers are footing the bill for emergency rooms filled with people harmed by alcohol - and that needs to change.

The comments come after a Dunedin emergency department doctor said licensed premises should be charged higher annual fees to help pay for the carnage caused by alcohol - they currently pay between $150 and $1250.

Hospitality New Zealand, however, says most of that harm is caused by people drinking at home.

Professor Cassell told TVNZ 1's Breakfast today a good approach would be to address both issues at once by increasing both excise taxes and licence fees.

"Cracking down on the bars could be increasing licence fees - they are very cheap ... they could be paying a lot more," Professor Casswell said.

"We really need the alcohol in New Zealand to cost more - then the people who drink very little, who are picking up the tab through their income taxes wouldn't be getting the bad treatment that they're getting at the moment."

Bars are often overlooking intoxicated patrons, she said.

"The young ones and heavier drinkers - they're drinking 8-10 drinks before they get to the bars," Professor Casswell said.

"The law in New Zealand says do not sell alcohol to intoxicated people - are the signs of intoxication being picked up in the bars and nightclubs when they should be?"

Professor Casswell said a rise in alcohol prices is long overdue, and has been suggested before.

"The New Zealand Law Commission in 2010 recommended a 10 per cent increase in alcohol tax and we've not seen anything happen - it was immediately turned down by the previous government.

"We're looking to the current government to say this is really a good tax - it's a very important tax.

"It helps people drink less, it stops young people starting to drink and it recoups some of the costs that the health system and the Police are dealing with at the moment from a very high level of harmful drinking in New Zealand."

Professor Sally Casswell says alcohol tax is still too low and the taxpayer is paying for people harmed by alcohol. Source: Breakfast


'It's just not on' - Queenstown looking at freedom camping ban after petition gains support

Queenstown is looking at implementing camping bans by the middle of this year after a petition against freedom camping quickly gained thousands of signatures. 

"An explosion in popularity of self-drive vacations to our area, means reserves and car parks are crowded with people camping in vehicles and tents," the petition launched by Save our Reserves New Zealand states.

It says Lake Hayes, Lower Shotover carpark, Queenstown Gardens and Lake Dunstan's reserves were impacted by campers. 

At 8.20am today, 3,673 people have signed the petition. 

"Worse, a few are ruining it for everybody by strewing the area with human waste and trash, even on paths and by waterways."

Created three-days-ago, the petition asks Queenstown Lakes District Council mayor Jim Boult to "work together to find solutions" by implementing suggestions such as "not accepting 'self-contained' stickers as evidence of self-contained vehicles" and "clamping and instant fines for those who flout the rules, zero tolerance on human waste". 

Mayor Boult told RNZ the council was looking at ways to "crackdown" on those breaking the rules.

"It's just not on, they wouldn't do it in their own place."

Freedom camping doesn't simply mean sleeping in your car, it’s not illegal, although it’s restricted.
Source: Seven Sharp