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Medical Robotics Company

VGo Communications Creates Robotic Telepresence


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By Erik Neilson
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Living a restrictive lifestyle as a result of illness or certain medical conditions can be extremely difficult, especially for children and young adults. But a robotics company based in Nashua, NH is making strides towards helping these individuals and others live more fulfilling lives in ways that might otherwise only be found in science fiction films.

VGo Communications, Inc. is considered to be one of the leading companies at the forefront of robotic telepresence technology, a term that many people likely aren’t familiar with at this point.

In basic terms, robots such as those built by VGo Communications allow housebound patients to interact “face to face” with those in the outside world.

These robots utilize wireless video technology that allows the individual not only to control the path and movements of the device remotely, but also allows for the person’s face to show up on a video screen in a position where their head would otherwise be. It may appear to be straight out of a Steven Spielberg movie, but the fact is that this technology is very real.

Perhaps the most popular example as of late of how VGo robots can help change the lives of housebound patients comes from West Seneca, NY. In hopes of helping an elementary school student with severe allergies attend class, a VGo robot was placed in the classroom amongst the boy’s classmates, Yahoo! News reported.

Somewhat surprisingly, the students took to the concept without issue, inviting the boy to play, telling him jokes and otherwise interacting with the robot as if it were a human being.

And that’s precisely where the power of this kind of technology sits. The boy (who goes into anaphylactic shock when exposed to certain allergens, thus preventing him from attending class in person) no longer has to live in solitude based upon his condition and is now able to live a much more social lifestyle than he likely would have otherwise.

It should stand to reason, then, that robotic telepresence technology is expected to have a major impact on the medical industry in the coming years.

While it’s unclear as to why the children in this NY classroom took so easily to the robotic technology, one way of thinking about it is that younger generations in the modern world have grown up with advanced technology in ways that past generations have not, and they are thus far more comfortable with certain concepts (such as robotic telepresence) than many older individuals.

It just goes to show that technology that would have once seemed a near impossibility is now regarded as rote by those who are growing up in the digital age.

For years, doctors and other medical professionals have pushed for the option to communicate with patients in remote locations through telepresence, and VGo’s robots seem to be very much in-line with this concept. While a robotic presence may not necessarily be ideal in every situation, it can often be a far better option than many of the alternatives.

Robotic telepresence can also help companies save time and money, in that it allows certain individuals to work from home or while traveling without any projected interruptions.

Those who work in other professional sectors can also expect to get a great deal of use out of robots such as those built by VGo Communications. Salespeople who are on the road continuously, for example, can utilize these machines in order to be present at a daily meeting, even if they’re in a hotel room 5,000 miles away. The possibilities extend to every corner of industry.

VGo robots are certainly not inexpensive. At $6,000 and a $100 monthly service charge, they may be out of reach for certain individuals or businesses. For companies that have budgets which allow for such a purchase, however, they can be extremely useful in certain situations, and they can even help to improve workflow overall.

It’s no secret that robotic telepresence has already made quite a splash in the medical industry, but the potential for growth is higher than many people realize. If units such as these become more affordable and accessible, it’s fair to say that they might end up in nursing homes, hospitals, and doctor's offices around the country, as well as private homes for those who are restricted from leaving their living space.

While relatively new, this product could someday become commonplace not only in America, but in the rest of the world as well.

 


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