VW, OhmniLabs create CHAMP telepresence robot to provide matchday access for young soccer fans

[This short story from The News Wheel describes a new telepresence robot and its role in providing virtual access to U.S. soccer matches for children who otherwise can’t attend. See the original version for a second picture and a 0:47 minute video (also available on YouTube) and U.S. Soccer press releases here and here for more information. And see an OhmniLabs tweet for a photo of “Luna and CHAMP meeting with Megan Rapinoe at USWNT’s Send-Off Series game versus Mexico.” –Matthew]

[Image: Luna Perrone got to meet Alex Morgan through the use of the CHAMP robot. Credit: Volkswagen]

VW and OhmniLabs Create CHAMP Robot for Young Fans

By Morgan Pritchett
July 14, 2021

A tradition in the U.S. Soccer community is when children get an opportunity to walk onto the field with the players before a match begins. Sadly, some kids don’t get to participate in this exciting pre-game ceremony due to certain unfortunate circumstances. As the Presenting Partner of U.S. Soccer, Volkswagen — in a partnership with OhmniLabs — set out to fix that with the CHAMP telepresence robot.

To make the walk-on tradition more inclusive, OhmniLabs created CHAMP to act as a virtual presence for those children who couldn’t physically be at games. Inspired by the all-electric VW ID.4, CHAMP sports a design that mimics a jersey, complete with its name on the back. On top, CHAMP’s head is a screen that showcases the child’s face as they “walk” onto the field from their location.

“The CHAMP project with OhmniLabs brings the excitement of being on the field with U.S. Soccer to some of the most passionate young fans who might not otherwise get the experience,” said Kimberley Gardiner, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Volkswagen. “We see this as a creative expression of our core mission – applying advanced technology and making it more approachable.”

An inspirational young player

The first CHAMP user was Luna Perrone, a young girl who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in late 2020. Even with her diagnosis, Luna continues to fine-tune her soccer game by practicing her skills between hospital appointments. Volkswagen Ambassador Alex Morgan noted that the whole team was excited to have Luna on the field with them during their July 1 Tokyo Olympics send-off match against Mexico.

CHAMP will continue to be a presence at USWNT and USMNT matches in the future. While there hasn’t been any confirmation on whether CHAMP traveled to Tokyo for the Olympics, I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out during those matches since spectators have been limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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