Student With Rare Illness Attends Normal Classes Thanks to a Telepresence Robot
By Elizabeth Fish
For 12-year-old Zachary Thompson, attending school like a normal kid his age is pretty difficult. This is due to his rare condition, X-linked myotubular myopathy, an illness affecting only males that leaves him bed-bound and dependent on a ventilator. Fortunately, a new remote presence robot may be able to help Zachary at least attend school.
The VGo telepresence robot not only allows for a video link from one place to another, but it can also move around. The remote person (in this case, Zachary) can control the robot’s movements from their computer, while people in the same room treat it like a person on wheels.
VGo is equipped with all the typical stuff you’d need to communicate- a camera, microphones, and a display. It’s only four feet tall, but the camera can pan up and down and left to right to help with interaction. It’s battery powered, but will last around 12 hours before needing to charge–this works well for Zachary, seeing as he will only need it during school hours.
The only limitation to VGo is it can only work if it can connect to the Internet via 4G or Wi-Fi. It also costs in the region of $6,000, plus an annual service fee of $100 per month.
Zachary and his school will start using the VGo next term, to see how it performs in a classroom environment. This means that for the first time, he’ll be able to participate fully in class, and chat with classmates in the hallway. Let’s hope it lives up to expectation so Zachary can more fully experience school.