Futuristic friend: Strong Museum gets robot to help hospitalized children from hospital room

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There is a new friend that sick children in hospitals can make at the Strong Museum, and this friend does not have ten fingers or toes or even a name yet.

This friend comes on a pole, an iPad and some wheels. It is a fully controllable robot.

The Strong National Museum of Play partnered with Golisano Children’s Hospital and WeGo Foundation to help hospitalized children who cannot leave virtually escape with the help of the robot. The children have full control of the device on wheels.

"It’s a portal into the museum. It’s a way that children who can’t be here can remotely see hear and interact with everything that goes on in through tours and they can interact with all of our exhibits," said Sara Poe, vice president of marketing and communications for the Strong Museum.

This is the electronic solution that allows them to still explore any museum exhibit all from their hospital room.

"Especially with the pandemic, kids are stuck in a hospital room, and they don’t sit still very well. Even sick kids are not particularly good at being sick and sitting still, so to be able to move about and be free is just fantastic," said Heather Reyes, M.D. Reyes is a pediatric cardiac intensivist at URMC.

The robot on wheels is completely interactive and will be led by a museum tour guide while the child remotely dials into the iPad. Demonstrating for News10NBC, IT Service Supervisor Abate says it is almost like dialing in any Zoom or video conference – except this video chat can move around.

"I do have full control over the robot. I’m connected to my home wifi. I’m sitting in my kitchen right now and using the arrow keys on my keyboard; I can move the robot forward, backward, turn left and right," Abate said.

Museum and hospital officials say that allowing hospitalized children to be able to see, hear, interact and communicate with guests at the museum is really the best kind of medicine.

"As much as kids get to be kids it’s the greatest thing to take them out of their hospital room and let them be a normal child doing normal child things… it’s great for the parents, too… to watch their kid getting to be a kid," Reyes said.