Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

My Robot Experience

on October 16, 2014

When I first realized I wasn’t going to be able to attend a required meeting with some of my most favorite colleagues, I was a little bummed to say the least.  So much I would miss out on… seeing all my friends and colleagues in the field of visual impairment across the state, the new facility for Region 11 Education Service Center which is where the meeting was being held, and most importantly – the critical updates and knowledge in our field.

I let the person in charge of the meeting know that I couldn’t attend, but asked if I could possibly join in by conference call or Skype.  I’ve never used Skype so I was a little skeptical about that option.  And calls are okay, but you can’t see what’s going on — and I’m a very visual learner.

Some time went by and then I got some very good news.  The lady in charge has a son who has been fighting cancer for a little while now.  He’s in high school and during his treatments at M.D. Anderson, many miles from his home, he attended his classes with the assistance of a VGO robot.  So yes, you’ve guessed it!  Things were arranged for me to use the same kind of robot to attend this meeting!

Once an administrator set up my account and gave me a username and password, I downloaded the VGO app. It works on a laptop PC or MAC or even on an iPad.  Once logged in I just clicked on my robot’s name, REATA 3, and it connected a video call.  So the VGO was in Fort Worth and I was at my office three hours away.  I could see the room and everyone in it.  I could hear them – all of them.  The main speaker used a microphone, but I could hear everyone talking, even if they didn’t have a mic.  They could also see my face on the screen of the robot and hear my voice.  But that is not all. Using the mouse or the arrow keys I could make REATA 3 roll around. How cool is that?!

In the meeting our first assignment was to find 3 people at the meeting we did not know, then 3 people who work at Region 11 whom we did not know, and then locate 3 other meeting rooms.  This was to give us an opportunity to see the new building and meet new people.  I hooked up with one of the people at my table and off we went.  I followed my partner around the building, going down hallways, to the main reception desk, and finally back to the room. Introducing myself to new people was interesting! But everyone was very receptive.   It was a little challenging to drive REATA 3, but not too bad.  It was actually really fun.  It won’t let you drive it off of a step and it tells you if you are close to running into something.  It will display a message on the screen that says, “rear object” or “tall object”.  If you do bump into something, it will put a callout symbol with the word “BUMP!” in it!  Kind of funny!

During the two days of the meeting, I was able to work in a small group discussing various topics.  I was able to participate in the time when we used chart paper and shared activities we were doing in our part of the state.  Someone wrote my stuff down for me as I told it to them.  Then we took turns reading and explaining the activity on our charts.  I just talked and everyone in the room could hear me.

We took a selfie at the “Selfie Wall”.  I uploaded it below.

This is just so cool.  I had heard about it being used with children who are homebound due to illness or who can’t attend school for other reasons.  But I never thought I’d get to use it myself.  It is really easy to do and you don’t have to be “techy” to understand how to use a VGO.  But if you are “techy” you will love it!

VGo robot, REATA 3, with my picture on its screen.

VGo robot, REATA 3, with my picture on its screen.

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