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Education Robotics Hardware

Texas Student Attends School As a Robot 218

Posted by samzenpus
from the bully-proof dept.
kkleiner writes "Freshman Lyndon Baty's immune system is so fragile he can't risk being surrounded by people his own age, yet he attends classes at his high school in Knox City, Texas every day. All thanks to a robot. The Vgo telepresence platform is a four foot tall bot on wheels with a small screen, camera, speakers and microphone at the top. Baty logs into the robot remotely from his home, using his PC and a webcam to teleconference into his classes. Baty can drive Vgo around his school, switching between classes just like regular students. For a boy that has spent much of his life sick and isolated from his peers, Vgo not only represents a chance at a better education, it's also an opportunity for freedom and comradery."
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Texas Student Attends School As a Robot

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  • Typo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @05:49PM (#35084390)

    You misspelled "Sheldon Cooper".

    • You misspelled "Sheldon Cooper".

      Damn! You beat me to it. However we need to figure out what Dr. Cooper is doing back in high school...

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        'You misspelled "Sheldon Cooper".'

        I'm sorry but it says "Moops" here.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        Damn! You beat me to it. However we need to figure out what Dr. Cooper is doing back in high school...

        Research on the social patterns, rituals, and mating habits of pubescent Homo-sapiens. Valuable information for when the mother-ship reaches our orbit.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          This is of course a reminder of the legal problems inherent in this application. Monitoring the activities of minors in terms of signal interception and recording of sound and video.

          Of course in any mass application, it is just crazy as. Seriously what would be the point of a whole bunch of remote controlled droids looking at each other in an otherwise empty board room, might as well just create a far cheaper virtual environment. As for medical application strapping a headcam, microphone and speaker to a

    • I was thinking more like the Bubble Boy... Why don't they give him a giant hamster ball?!
    • by zero_out (1705074)
      That was the most hilarious episode I ever saw! BAZINGA!!!
  • Déjà Vu (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yvan256 (722131)

    The first step toward surrogates [wikipedia.org]?

    • by KhabaLox (1906148)
      God I hope not. The movie was the worst piece of crap that Bruce Willis has ever been in, and yes, I have seen Color of Night. [imdb.com]
    • by phoebe (196531)
      A similar story is covered by the 2005 Japanese film Hinokio [wikipedia.org], after an accident a house-bound student attends college via a robotic avatar.
    • by suso (153703) *

      Actually, I thought the coolest part of that video is where it docks itself. I wonder how that's done accurately because honestly the tech itself doesn't seem too sophisticated. Could do something like that as a home project. Sounds like a good hackerspace project actually.

      • I like the part where he docked with a cheerleader under the bleachers. That happened, right? I am too lazy to RTFA, so I just imagined what I would do with a robot surrogate.
        • Even with a robot, you're not getting any cheerleaders.
          Maybe even especially with a robot, you're not getting any cheerleaders.
          • Conceivably, there might be electromechanical, ummm, appendages to said robot that might interest some cheerleaders. Just a thought.
          • by c6gunner (950153)

            Even with a robot, you're not getting any cheerleaders.
            Maybe even especially with a robot, you're not getting any cheerleaders.

            I dunno ... the phrase "I am fully functional, programmed in multiple techniques; a wide variety of pleasuring." is a hell of a pickup line ....

          • by arivanov (12034)

            Even if you are, you will need a new robot.

            A human may withstand being dunked by the cheerleader's old flame which happens to be the football team captain. I do not quite see a webcam on wheels surviving it.

    • by RevWaldo (1186281)
      I was more thinking of the 70s classic The Boy in the Plastic Bubble [wikipedia.org]. Travolta first attends high school using a two-way video link, then wearing a space suit.

      .
    • by Canazza (1428553)

      I remember an old CBBC show called "FoT" that basically had this, except it was made up (that was the premise of the show, it'd show a short clip of something that was either "False or True", giving the show its name).
      I only remember it because the filmed it using my class. And it wasn't a robot, just a speaker/camera. This *was* 1996, and it *was* BBC childrens programming, they probably didn't have the budget.

  • Little steps like this will only help foster the coming ubiquity of robots around us in our every day life. Very cool times (mostly).
  • "A bubble boy?"
    "He lives in a bubble!"

  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @05:57PM (#35084520)
    My mother is one of those people who is very skeptical about the positive influence technology has had on our society. To her the more automated and advanced our culture is the less productive we are. She only ever hears about massive digital consumer data losses, or crashed/hacked ATM's. While I think we all agree that technology isn't always the silver bullet we want it to be, I do think examples like this help to demonstrate that we really are making progress. Even 10 years ago this poor young man would be totally isolated from the classroom learning atmosphere. While we still have a long way to go, when I speak with my disabled friends, they often remind me of how much innovation has improved their lives even in just the last 20 years.
    • Send her the link...
    • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:01PM (#35084592)

      Just buy her a washtub, a box of candles and a few cord of wood.

      Then make a habit of throwing away her fresh foods during the winter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Your mom needs to get a vibrator.
    • I know a couple of people like this.
      The problem is that technology is so effective, it often works so well that it makes the problems it solves invisible so people don't even consider a world that has such problems.

      Medical tech is the easiest place to find good examples.

      To quote Professor Terry Pratchett:
      "If you said to a bunch of average people two hundred years ago âoeWould you be happy in a world where medical care is widely available, houses are clean, the worldâ(TM)s music and sights and food

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're right. One of the most amazing and positive experiences I've had on the web, well, really before the web -- on usenet -- was meeting a person in one of the discussion newsgroups and chatting with them extensively about a variety of subjects. He was there in the melee of some pretty heated debates for years. He was articulate, intelligent, and voluminous. Later on, after I knew them pretty well, they explained why there were occasions when he disappeared for a few weeks when in the midst of a conv

  • Good luck getting a girl to climb into the back seat of a car with this "robot". The prom could also be awkward. On the bright side, the robot probably doesn't have to attend the mandatory PE classes.
  • Hostile Environment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThinkWeak (958195) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @05:59PM (#35084556)
    I think this is a great thing and it's nice to see something like this being given a chance. However, I wonder how long this thing is going to be functional inside of a school. With kids in the halls traveling between classes, weather, random bullying, how long will it take before this thing is broken? I can't imagine it will survive being knocked over more than a couple times.
    • Good point. Sounds like the Vgo makers need to come up with a "safe for high school" model that includes a taser and smoke bombs.
    • by cptdondo (59460)

      IANAL but isn't $6K worth of damage a felony in most jurisdictions?

      I think that would provoke a response from the cops. While I don't discount the possibility, I think the kids know that it's bad juju to mess with this; sort of like smashing the windows on the principal's car.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      I suspect it does not have the ability to right itself, so all you have to do is knock it over for hours of entertainment.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Wow, that's a reversal, the idea that an environment is too hostile for a robot so we should send in a child. Normally we assume the opposite [youtube.com] (worth a watch).

      In this case, the pathogenic environment of high school is so hostile to this particlar student that it would actually kill him in short order (immunodeficient). Second, able-bodied students have the same problem [nytimes.com]. Third, the robot has a $1,200 / year maintenance contract. Fourth, you could always add some accessories [roboticrevolutions.com].

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      That was my first thought too, it looks rather fragile. One of those military walking bots would be more appropriate i think.

      But its still a great idea for those who really cant get out into the 'world'. Its not a replacement for real life, but its a good step in the right direction for them.

  • I've been following the robotics telepresence scene ever since I stumbled upon Anybots [anybots.com] whilst paroozing YouTube. I really think telepresence is a market that can fund more research and development into humanoid robots (at the very least, it draws less eyebrow raises as the sexbot industry). We have a lot of companies making money off specialized, robotic floor cleaners and lawn mowers, but if we really want to develop an all-purpose robot that can handle a lot of the work that we humans can, we need to put
    • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:16PM (#35084776) Homepage Journal

      Personally, I think you're more likely to get funding to build sexbots. There's *how many* Japanese companies that build multi-thousand-dollar sex-dolls already? And there's at least two in the USA that make high-end sex-dolls (and too many making cheap inflatables)...

      Although there may be eyebrow-raising, most (male) people are secretly rubbing their hands together (and other things) at the prospect of an autonomous sex-bot. And while telepresence may be nice, whoever corners the market for sex-bots is going to make Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg look like paupers.

      Although you may not believe it, Futurama has it right. Sex-bots might be declared illegal in some future, because it will seriously impact reproduction, it may lead to low number of human to human pairings as well as having half the population (women) wondering how they are going to compete. See: Chobits/Persecoms

      • by foobsr (693224)
        Personally, I think you're more likely to get funding to build sexbots.

        Really?

        Quote [army.mil]: "Telepresence can be defined as a human-computer-machine condition in which a user (a Soldier) receives sufficient information about a remote, real-world site (a battlefield) through a machine (a robot) so that the user feels physically present at the remote, real-world site."

        CC.
        • Chance of funding, in descending order of application:

          Military
          Sex

          .

          Business

          .
          .
          .
          .
          .

          Health/Education

          • by foobsr (693224)
            I get the idea (and agree), but I guess "Health/Education" will come in earlier, along the lines of "telepresence enhanced robotic care", assuming that it will save^H^H^H^Himprove profits.

            CC.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:43PM (#35085076)

        Although you may not believe it, Futurama has it right. Sex-bots might be declared illegal in some future, because it will seriously impact reproduction, it may lead to low number of human to human pairings as well as having half the population (women) wondering how they are going to compete. See: Chobits/Persecoms

        Are you kidding? A serious challenge to women's monopoly on pussy would be the best thing to happen to the human race. Imagine how much kinder and less manipulative women will become. If there's anything on this Earth that needs to be taken down a peg or two it's the average female ego that has learned through the eons to take it for granted that there will always be other suitors, so the mate she has now is "expendable" and "replacable" and it's somehow okay to toy with him using his desires. Currently, women unilaterally make the decision to terminate 80% of all relationships that break up, particularly marriage.

        Shit man. With sexbots being common it might not be so damned difficult to find a good woman. They'd have to learn to offer something that a sexbot can't, like love and good conversation and real kindness and intelligence. The impact on reproduction isn't necessarily a big deal. Imagine how few babies will be born out of wedlock to people who had no intention of becoming parents and are neither financially nor emotionally prepared to raise a child. Imagine less contention for resources and the standard of living that would be available to an Earth with say, a population of 1 billion. Imagine fewer "crimes of passion" like all the murders and domestic disputes that happen as rival males competing for desirable women is greatly reduced.

  • Twin heat-seeking Hunter-Killer missiles and swivel-mounted gatling guns on either side of the screen.

  • As far as an education goes, isn't this the equivalent of external study?

  • Perfectly natural (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OhHellWithIt (756826) * on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:05PM (#35084648) Journal
    At first, I thought the whole idea was just too weird. But then I thought about how kids interact with each other in Facebook chat rooms, and I'd say that it probably feels pretty natural both to Lyndon Baty and his classmates.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      I thought about how kids interact with each other in Facebook chat rooms

      Or via IM and mobile short messages... In fact, assuming decent enough integration of Lyndon Baty with his peers, I expect those methods to be the main ways of communication - despite the robot.

      Though his version of participation in undressing video call might get weird.

  • Oregon has a specific exclusion for schools, but if you leave the mike open in most other contexts, you run afoul of the wiretapping statutes.
    • by Vancorps (746090)
      Wiretapping only applies to recording and retaining audio, not real-time transmission especially in a public place. Plenty of students across the country will record their classes to refer back to later while studying and there's no need for exceptions in the law to allow for it.
  • if his classmates didn't keep sticking "Disconnect my batteries" signs on his back.

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:32PM (#35084946) Homepage Journal

    . . . for mockery and bullying.

    "No, NO! Not the wire cutters!"

    "I'm not a battlebot! I'm not a battlebot! Please take me out of the arena I'm not . . ." ggzzzzzZZZZZ-CRASH!

    "OK, who put caltrops under Lyndon's Bot's wheels?"

  • Is it just for a PC? I think i saw at least 2 or 3 people using macs during that infomercial. Unintended?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:34PM (#35084966)

    When I was in the 3rd grade there was a boy who had had polio and teleconference into class. This was in 1958, the phone company even back then had some teleconferencing tech. (It was an independent phone company btw not bell). So the difference is Video. And recall that in the mid 1960s ma bell was all hot over videophones (they were at disneyland and the worlds fair among other places). So at that time it was just a question of cost the tech existed. Now again here it may be that the costs have decreased enough that its economically justifiable.

  • Check that robot for slime, STAT!
    • Only a Carpathian would come back to life now, and choose Knox City, Texas!

      Tasty pick... bonehead!

  • I recall a time when i made a hockey player at my high school look extraordinarily stupid once in class - not a difficult thing to accomplish for that particular jock - and he retaliated after class by tripping me in the hallway from behind. If similar action was taken against this robot the consequences could be costly...
  • by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @06:52PM (#35085170)
    I used to attend as a zombie. Especially those 8 am classes in Differential Equations.
  • I just want to be this kid's best friend. So I can say "My best friend is a robot".

  • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @07:18PM (#35085384)

    Its a good thing people in Texas are tolerant of those different from them, this should go really smoothly.

  • From the summary "he can't risk being surrounded by people his own age," implying that if he's surrounded by older or younger people that's just peachy. I realize this is slashdot, but come on!
  • Cartman, that's is a really cruel joke to play on Butters.

    I'm amazed that he fell for it again.

  • This has already been done in Russia. Of course Russia no being a state of the US of A, most folks here would prefer to assume that they don't have modern technology, only bad 1970s hairdos and 1990s PCs....

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Wednesday February 02, 2011 @09:01PM (#35086190) Journal
    Anyone else just see a laptop on a roomba or is it just me?

    Laptop with webcam [google.com] = ~$350 cheap roomba [google.com] = ~$150

    Charging $5,000 + $1,200 per year "service contract" [youtube.com] for $500 in hardware = PRICELESS
  • Hope Vgo doesn't take after his brother Vger, what a PITA that robot was

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