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Project Enables Pediatric Patients To Visit National Aquarium, Baltimore Museums Through Telepresence Robotics

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- When a child has an extended stay in the hospital they can feel very isolated and lonely.

Now, a Johns Hopkins medical student has come up with a new idea; use a "telepresence robot" to allow sick children to tour the National Aquarium and the Science Center.

The Aquarium has designated a few tour specialists to guide the robots, one called RAE, from exhibit to exhibit explaining to the child what they're seeing. The child actually moves RAE using the keyboard of a computer. Once they've figured out how to move forward, backward and left and right, off they go.

A Johns Hopkins pre-med student sits with the child to provide encouragement and support if needed.

Some children have never been to an aquarium before which makes this aquatic adventure even more exciting.

The medical student who came up with the idea, Galen Shi, hopes it provides some distraction, improves the mood of child patients and even, perhaps, helps in the healing process,

"I thought this would be a good way for the kids to escape their rooms and to be a normal child again for the, you know, the half-hour that they get to do this for," Shi said.

As RAE moves around the Aquarium, as you can imagine, it attracts the attention of other visitors and that gives the children another chance to interact with kids who may be touring in person.

So far, there are three robots being used at two hospitals, Hopkins and the University of Maryland's Children's Center.

The project is called the "WeGo Project." Since it began a little over a year ago it's taken more than 100 children on tour.

The dream is to expand and offer tours of art museums, libraries, and other institutions. "WeGo Project" is a non-profit and they're always looking for support. You'll find a link on this page.

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