With telepresence robots serving as stand-ins, there’s no reason for sick kids to miss school. Some children may prefer to skip class, of course, but for those with serious immune system disorders, telepresence ‘bots are a lifeline to the outside world.For the past three weeks, a new telepresence robot has allowed Knox City, Texas, high school freshman Lyndon Baty to interact with classmates, attend lectures and feel like a regular student. He suffers from polycystic kidney disease and had a kidney transplant at age 7. He attended school until last year, but when he started showing signs of transplant rejection, he was forced to stay home because of his suppressed immune system. He wears a surgical mask and must avoid almost all social interactions just to stay healthy.
In December, school district officials heard about the Vgo telepresence robot, a new platform released last year,
and they got one for him. As long as he has Internet access, he can attend classes from anywhere — home, the hospital or any other safe spot. He started using it Jan. 18
The Vgo, which cost the school about $5,000, stands about four feet tall and has wheels so Lyndon can drive it around his high school campus. A video monitor shows his face and speakers project his voice, so teachers and friends can see him as if he was there. Its battery lasts 8 hours.
A young leukemia patient in Moscow has a plastic telepresence bot in the classroom, too, which helps him participate in history, English and French lessons. Stepan Supin’s robot, also named Stepan, can broadcast his lessons to a computer in his home. A screen in front of the ‘bot allows him to participate in class