Technology September 26, 2012
Kid Too Allergic To Go To School? Send A Robot Instead!

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For Devon Carrow, a second-grade student in Buffalo, New York, going to school isn't an option. Devon's allergies are so severe that even a whiff of peanuts in the air can send him to hospital.

But Devon's still getting an education at a regular public school, thanks to some futuristic technology: he has a robot that goes to class in his place.

The machine is called VGo, and it allows Devon to see and hear what's going on in the classroom, as well as participate in discussions and answer questions.

But it's not just a camera and microphone. Devon can send the VGo down the hallways from class to class, guide it to his desk, and even head outside at recess.

Here's a (very sales-heavy) demonstration video:

According to the Buffalo News, Devon doesn't receive any special treatment. He's expected to participate in class and pay attention just like the other kids.

"The only thing different is Devon is not in the classroom," said his mother, Rene Carrow. "He's required to do everything every other kid does in the class.

"He doesn't get any specialized individual attention."

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At home, Devon uses a computer to send wireless signals to the VGo, which allows him to see the classroom and teacher, as well as move around the school on wheels.

Devon's computer also has a high-definition camera mounted on it so everyone at school can see him.

The technology for the VGo was originally developed with corporate executives in mind, as a way to keep track of inventory remotely. But it's working out great for Devon.

And even though it's a new situation for everyone involved, Devon is doing great in the classroom, both academically and socially.

His classmates have kind words for Devon, calling him "really nice," "very smart," and "funny." And school officials say he's doing well academically.

If the idea of a robot in the classroom seems dehumanizing, consider this: when Devon was hospitalized last spring after an allergic reaction, his first-grade classmates made him some get-well artwork.

"They drew a picture of a boy," says school principal Kathleen Brachmann.

So even though he's not physically present, it seems like his fellow students know Devon as a human being, not a machine.

Related articles:

Mind Over Muscles: Controlling A Robot Arm With Only Her Brain

Robots are Doing it For Themselves

Amazing Robot!

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