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August 8, 2011 10:26 AM   Subscribe

[The principal] strode in front of the astonished student body in December with the $6,000 VGo robot ... "Meet the new electronic Lyndon," the principal announced. "Don't touch him when you pass him in the hall. Give him space. Don't sneak up on him—he doesn't have rear-view mirrors. Let him be like the other kids. Don't ruin it for him. This is Lyndon's only way to be a part of you."

Lyndon Baty's compromised immune system means he can't go to school. So his robot goes for him.

Video of Lyndon and the Baty Bot.
Via.
Sorry about the ridiculous 11-page formatting on the main link, but there is a Print button.
posted by Horace Rumpole (58 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 

This is pretty dang cool.

He really should have named it Roy, though.
posted by curious nu at 10:41 AM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


How will the teachers know who is piloting it? The potential for teen-comedy hijinx is endless!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:41 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


More readable version.
posted by Hargrimm at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2011


Whole article on one page.
posted by grouse at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2011


Very nice. Although before looking at a picture of the robot, I was expecting something more like this.
posted by demiurge at 10:42 AM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


So his robot goes for him?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:43 AM on August 8, 2011


"No dancing!" chirped the robot. :)
posted by maggieb at 10:44 AM on August 8, 2011


I have seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spitballs glittering off the shoulder of Mrs. Tannhauser.
posted by condour75 at 10:44 AM on August 8, 2011 [27 favorites]


I have seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spitballs glittering off the shoulder of Mrs. Tannhauser.

Time to graduate.
posted by kmz at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2011 [28 favorites]


Was Larry Middleman not available?
posted by bondcliff at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tom Greer is a more apt name.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2011


This is why, whenever I hear people wistfully wish for a simpler time, before we got all this technology, I just think fuck no never that.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:50 AM on August 8, 2011 [35 favorites]


I hope he can capture video evidence of e-wedgies.
posted by theredpen at 10:53 AM on August 8, 2011


Well I certainly hope he becomes a hall monitor.

Show me your hall pass. You have 15 seconds to comply.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:55 AM on August 8, 2011 [30 favorites]


This is why, whenever I hear people wistfully wish for a simpler time, before we got all this technology, I just think fuck no never that.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:50 AM on August 8 [1 favorite +] [!]


Eponyeahyouknowthedrill.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:57 AM on August 8, 2011


Great, just what we needed. It's a cybernetic Owen Meany.
posted by norm at 11:02 AM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a well-told story, and a well-lived life he's living. I was struck by this description of the principal's office though:

Mr. Moeller called the offenders into his office, where the crucifix and wooden paddle on the shelf let them know he meant business, and Coach Steele laid down the law in front of the entire student body in March.

A crucifix and a paddle?!
posted by headnsouth at 11:04 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A crucifix and a paddle?!

Apparently you've never heard of Coach Levi "Leviathan" Steele.
posted by resurrexit at 11:14 AM on August 8, 2011


If you'll all excuse me, I seem to have some dust in my eye.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:14 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


..digitized by the robot's motherboard into hundreds of thousands of 1s and 0s and zipped as radio signals to an antenna at the end of the only hallway in Knox City High....a branch of copper wiring surfaced here and fed those bytes through a wall of the red-brick house, where a modem turned them back into radio signals that leaped through the air to a laptop on a desk in the living room, which converted them into the images and sounds unfolding in that science classroom: Mr. Collins's drone, the flickering video and Tylynne Eaton's shimmy. This—all of it—took three seconds.

Three seconds is huge latency, unless you're talking to another planet or something. It's surprising to me that people are able to interact with the robot at all.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:19 AM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is astonishing and heartwarming. Thinking ahead, what happens when disability regulations recommend bot-accessible workplaces? Will we finally be in a postgeographic world where the guys in the office are actually in repurposed WoW farms in China, and the boss is in a Swiss château? Will we finally make strong crypto ubiquitous, or will this provide the ultimate in deniability?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2011


Fantastic piece. Thanks for posting it!
posted by rtha at 11:22 AM on August 8, 2011


Wasn't this the plot of Hinokio?

Also, it is awesome. Hooray for all involved!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:27 AM on August 8, 2011


I've seen these marketed toward business, too: it's a way to be on the factory floor (or an office in Shanghai) without actually being there, like logmein/gotomypc for meatspace. It could potentially eliminate a major category of wasteful travel.

In another 15 years I bet these things will be everywhere, and half the people in tech support, business meetings, etc. will be operating remotely. Be sure next mealtime to have your avatar ask for your free septuacentennial cupcake in a cup!
posted by vorfeed at 11:27 AM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


The quote:

"I get about 60 percent."

describing his interaction with the world is both insightful and sad and very, very relevant to a lot more of the world these days than just Lyndon Baty's.

But I'm so glad that he's got that 60%. And it's one of those stories that reminds me that not everything about micro-sized, podunk, nothing-around-for-miles towns is bad, despite how my childhood memories often try to convince me otherwise.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:29 AM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Don't touch him when you pass him in the hall. Give him space. Don't sneak up on him"

If you think about it, this should probably also be policy for non-robot students.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:30 AM on August 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Don't touch him when you pass him in the hall. Give him space. Don't sneak up on him"

If you think about it, this should probably also be policy for non-robot students.


If it's anything like my middle school the 'no touch' rule would have made the halls between classes look like the LA freeway at rush hour.

"Why were you three hours late for math?"

"Sorry, student jam on the second floor again, they're planning on widening the hallways but not until next year."
posted by ennui.bz at 11:33 AM on August 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm showing my age here, but this kid is made of much stronger stuff than I am, because there's no way in hell I'd be able to resist cruising the robot down the hallway while constantly muttering "beedybeedybeedy".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:39 AM on August 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


"And the next inevitable step, once we all grasp that the components of the robot's body are more reliable than our kidneys, livers and hearts, once we begin downloading and digitizing our preferences and memories and genetic coding...."

What? We'll all transfer our minds to robots and live forever? We don't even know what consciousness IS.
posted by longsleeves at 11:44 AM on August 8, 2011


...no way in hell I'd be able to resist cruising the robot down the hallway...

"You're not one of those of silly people that's dressed like a robot, are you?"
posted by griphus at 12:04 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


We'll all transfer our minds to robots and live forever? We don't even know what consciousness IS.

Well, how am I going to find out until I can ask immortal robot me?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:05 PM on August 8, 2011


One more step towards Surrogates.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:08 PM on August 8, 2011


There are many copies...

...and they have a plan math homework.
posted by Zozo at 12:10 PM on August 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


We are living in the future.

Also, this startup has an incredible marketing department. They must have scoured the country for a kid who couldn't attend school, and -- even more incredibly -- in a district with decent network infrastructure and a competent IT department.
posted by miyabo at 12:19 PM on August 8, 2011


Wonder if he could take that robot into bars.

I mean - how are they possibly going to card it? The controller isn't there, and IT'S A ROBOT.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:19 PM on August 8, 2011


200 words to say "the data from the robot's cameras and mics is sent to Lyndon via the robot company's servers via the Internet."

Admittedly that path from bot to wireless hub to internet to distant server to home to wireless hub to computer is pretty magical when you stop and think about it, but I thought everyone was kinda used to this casual piece of routine magic by now? Or is the target audience of Sports Illustrated expected to be so far behind the times that wireless internet access is strange and exciting?

And wtf is this supposed to mean? "The eyes of his physician and six trailing residents widened as Lyndon pulled up his shirt to reveal nine big red, yellow, green and blue blotches. Then all those eyes narrowed and crinkled: sticky lizards!" Sticky lizards? Is that supposed to be a mutation of Little Orphan Annie's epithet of "Leapin' lizards!"?

Regardless, it is pretty cool that this kid can do this for a mere $6k! And maybe soon all the experiments in organ-growing will get to the point where we can grow Lyndon a couple new kidneys that his body won't reject. Living in the future is pretty damn awesome.
posted by egypturnash at 12:44 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wonder if he could take that robot into bars.

That is an awesome idea. I want to try it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:45 PM on August 8, 2011


I have seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spitballs glittering off the shoulder of Mrs. Tannhauser.

All these moments will be lost in time... like a freshman in the cafeteria.

Time to graduate.
posted by djrock3k at 12:46 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean - how are they possibly going to card it? The controller isn't there, and IT'S A ROBOT.

Why would they care? The robot can't beam the liquor home. yet.
posted by nomisxid at 12:47 PM on August 8, 2011


And wtf is this supposed to mean? "The eyes of his physician and six trailing residents widened as Lyndon pulled up his shirt to reveal nine big red, yellow, green and blue blotches. Then all those eyes narrowed and crinkled: sticky lizards!" Sticky lizards? Is that supposed to be a mutation of Little Orphan Annie's epithet of "Leapin' lizards!"?

I'm pretty sure that was an unclearly-written account of a time the kid pranked his doctors by putting a bunch of brightly-colored stickers on his torso.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:56 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wonder if he could take that robot into bars.

"IN-TOX-I-CATE! IN-TOX-I-CATE!"
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also, this startup has an incredible marketing department. They must have scoured the country for a kid who couldn't attend school, and -- even more incredibly -- in a district with decent network infrastructure and a competent IT department.

Actually, according to the article, it seems like a lot of dumb luck of knowing the right people/God's mysterious guiding hand.

Also, as the son of somebody who is basically (now) the unpaid staff for a small town high school, I think those of us who have been out of school for almost 20 years might be surprised what infrastructure is on the ground in a lot of high schools. (There was a time when my mom came to me...now I go to her.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2011


Small town America, baseball and robots; that almost could have been written by Ray Bradbury. Beautiful.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:28 PM on August 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


I mean it's good for that kid and all but I just find this kind of creepy.
posted by delmoi at 1:46 PM on August 8, 2011


More videos of the VGo robot in action.
posted by ericb at 1:47 PM on August 8, 2011


CNN interview with Lyndon.
posted by ericb at 1:49 PM on August 8, 2011


Well, how am I going to find out until I can ask immortal robot me?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:05 PM

Kind of a catch-22, isn't it?
posted by longsleeves at 2:12 PM on August 8, 2011


There is no touching telepresence allowed in the champagne room.
posted by Babblesort at 2:40 PM on August 8, 2011


Small town America, baseball and robots; that almost could have been written by Ray Bradbury. Beautiful.

I was thinking exactly the same thing. Even the over-description fits.
I want a robot avatar.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:41 PM on August 8, 2011


I love this. And I doubly love that his robot costs about as much as braces for two kids.

Now I really have to insist upon getting my flying car already.
posted by SMPA at 3:43 PM on August 8, 2011


Tomorrowful: "And wtf is this supposed to mean? "The eyes of his physician and six trailing residents widened as Lyndon pulled up his shirt to reveal nine big red, yellow, green and blue blotches. Then all those eyes narrowed and crinkled: sticky lizards!" Sticky lizards? Is that supposed to be a mutation of Little Orphan Annie's epithet of "Leapin' lizards!"?

I'm pretty sure that was an unclearly-written account of a time the kid pranked his doctors by putting a bunch of brightly-colored stickers on his torso.
"

I'm pretty sure it's referring to these type of gummy lizards that you buy for a quarter and swing around and stick to things. I see the hands much more often, though.
posted by Hargrimm at 3:53 PM on August 8, 2011


This kid has anticipated my reaction. I wonder if he's right:
"First of all, I'm not a Trail Blazer.... I'm a Dallas Maverick." He grins, immensely pleased with himself. "But I know that people will want to do this. They'll think they can escape the real world. But once you escape it, you'll start to want it. It sounds weird. I gained my independence through the robot. If you have bad health, it gives you back your self-worth, so you feel like a real person, not just a sick person. But for a healthy person to do this? I don't know. There's nothing like actually being there. Really seeing and feeling. I miss the feeling of being around other people and just the atmosphere of being in places. You're trying to be there but you're not there. It still feels like a video game, doing it this way. I don't get the whole thing. I get about 60 percent.
"Some people will want to stay at home in their comfort zone. But when you stay in your comfort zone too much, you don't feel that tension or stress of something unexpected happening. This isn't such a great idea. Don't do it if you're healthy, because you'll lose so much of your life. And what about when it becomes robot-to-robot?"


posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:11 PM on August 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm almost sad this kid isn't an internet tough guy with a penchant for shit-talking. Just imagine the freedom of being able to sling insults at people at people from the comfort of your own home, from a robot that they're not allowed to run away from or smash!
posted by tehloki at 4:27 PM on August 8, 2011


they're not allowed to run away from or smash!

They could stick gum on his webcam tho.
posted by ian1977 at 5:43 PM on August 8, 2011


The sad thing is, the kid's standardized tests will have to include a Voigt-Kampff section.
posted by ardgedee at 7:23 PM on August 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Damn, that's one hellova realistic looking rob- oh wait, swimsuit gallery. Right, never mind
posted by happyroach at 9:15 PM on August 8, 2011


Having just voted on an recurring yearly expenditure of $23,000 for one student's IEP tonight (not that you get to vote no on stuff that's in an IEP), I can't get over how CHEAP this is at $6,000. I can definitely think of more expensive assistive measures we provide for disabled students that this robot could replace. I'm even wondering how cost-effective it would be for kids in the children's hospital; we pay around $50,000/year for a full-time teacher at the hospital. Eight of these and eight kids could "go" to their regular school from their hospital beds. We normally have around 5-8 students at the hospital. (I can think of lots of reasons an in-person teacher would be better, but maybe for a high school student wanting to keep up in AP Chemistry or something, a little robot that can take them to those few classes the generalist hospital teacher can't provide would be a real boon.)

(As for technology support in schools, yeah. There are tons of grants and federal dollars for technology purchases for schools. Some have dumb rules, but we get a pretty constant stream of technology dollars that must be used for technology purchases within a particular time frame. After a certain point it'd probably be better if we could convert those dollars into hiring teachers, but no. It's all for technology. Almost all of our classrooms have smartboards at this point because the federal government really super thinks we need MOAR TEKNOLOGIES.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:06 PM on August 8, 2011


Sauce Trough: Three seconds is huge latency, unless you're talking to another planet or something. It's surprising to me that people are able to interact with the robot at all.

I don't know; in watching the videos it looks like they interact just fine. It definitely doesn't look like a 3 second delay- a slight pause, maybe, but nothing that's going to throw off an entire conversation.
posted by kro at 11:12 PM on August 8, 2011


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