(Left) Tele-presence robot traveling the halls (Right) Devon Carrow-Sperduti, user of the bot (via Barnorama)
It is a shame when children have or become afflicted with a serious disability. These afflictions usually take a devastating toll not only on the child but their families, as well. Occasionally these children look upon their afflictions as hurdle to overcome and gain a foot-hold on living a normal life such as 7-year old Devon Carrow-Sperduti of West Seneca, New York. Devon was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis disease (an allergic inflammatory condition of the esophagus) as well as anaphylactic shock syndrome (catastrophic allergic reaction that affects the whole body), asthma and respiratory distress syndrome at six months of age. Suffice it to say, an allergic reaction of almost any kind (even airborne) suffered by Devon could be fatal which is why he is typically isolated at home and can’t attend school. To put his condition into perspective, if any of his or his brothers friends come to visit they have to go through a procedure akin to radiation disinfecting such as scrubbing themselves down in the shower, wear a specially cleaned set of clothing (on-hand thanks to Devon’s Mom), as well as brushing their teeth in order to enter Devon’s environment. So while he can’t physically attend Winchester Elementary School, he can do the next best thing; have his robot go instead.
(Left) Devon using the laptop interface for the VGo Robot (Right) VGo in the classroom (Barnorama)
In order to attend class Devon makes use of his tele-presence, VGo Robot, which allows him to join his fellow students in the classroom without any undo hazards. The robot itself features a high-resolution camera for streaming video with automatic/manual tilting, 6-inch LCD screen, indication lights on either side of the robots head, auxiliary lights, 4 embedded microphones and built-in speaker for communication with a programmable touch-pad for set-up and local control all situated at the top of the robot. The base of the robot consists of a battery compartment that can hold a 6 or 12 hour rechargeable battery, a lower-mounted speaker, navigation and safety sensors, a series of headlights and two independently controlled wheels. Controlling the VGo is simple from virtually any remote location using a Wi-Fi signal or 4G connection that’s used in conjunction with the VGo app. Users can pilot the robot using a mouse by dragging the pointer in the direction desired. The more you drag the mouse the faster VGo travels, which can also be controlled using a keyboards arrow keys. Tilting the robots camera can be done either by a mouse’s scroll wheel or through assigned keyboard keys making observation relatively straightforward. Users can also mute audio and video, adjust speaker volume, take high-resolution photos, zoom video up to 5X and use a keyboard to talk (in a computer voice like that of Stephen Hawking). Devon, or rather Devon’s robot, doesn’t get any special treatment over the other students and is expected to take part in class, however instead of raising his hand he flashes a light on the VGo’s head to answer questions. His robot even has its own desk from which to work from! To round-out the school day, Devon is able to gossip with fellow classmates while travelling through the schools halls, which gives the extra added touch of him living a normal life which is truly astounding in the face of adversity.