Maryland Robot Will Attend School For Cancer-Stricken 10-Year-Old Girl

A robot is set to attend school for a 10-year-old girl with cancer, and it will be in school for five weeks while she undergoes cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, a report from NBC Washington says. The robot will stroll the halls of Poolesville Elementary in Maryland while Peyton Walton gets treatment for Undifferentiated Embryonic Hepatic Sarcoma, a particularly aggressive type of liver cancer. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the Maryland girl’s condition is defined as being a rare, highly malignant neoplasm that predominantly occurs in children between 5 and 10 years of age.

“This is one of the rarest forms of cancer in children,” said Anthony Mina, a friend of Peyton’s family.

Peyton, who was diagnosed with cancer in June, calls her robot PAVS, which stands for Peyton’s Awesome Virtual Self. The robot is equipped with an iPad screen attached to a Segway-like rolling base. Peyton will see and hear what the robot observes, and she can socialize with friends as her robotic replacement traverses the school’s halls, New York Times wrote. She’ll be able to control the robot from anywhere via an app. The iPad attached to PAVS will show her face and also allow the girl to respond to other students.

Douglas Robbins, principal of Poolesville Elementary School, spoke with news outlets about this unusual situation.

“As they see that robot in the hallways, that’s Peyton,” he said. “She’s here, she’s with us and she’s going to engage in the school day, just like the rest of them.”

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It seems that the other students at the school are eager to interact with the robot. In fact, it was her new friends at Poolesville Elementary who helped pay the robot’s $3,000 price tag, and a Go Fund Me page was also created in an effort to help with Peyton’s substantial medical bills.

“It’s technology — what 10-year-old doesn’t love technology?” Lynn Schaeber, Peyton’s mother, told reporters. “There’s a cool factor to this.”

Schaeber says the robot is a welcome addition and she feels that “it is bringing a little excitement into what otherwise would be an unrelentingly anxious and painful time.”

“The benefit has been huge,”Schaeber said. “Peyton is able to have a little bit more autonomy in her education. She has control over her day-to-day activities in school, whereas cancer takes that from her, and really isolates her.”

Peyton’s robot is the brainchild of Double Robotics, a technology startup company that produces an iPad-based telepresence robot called Double. The company has helped others in similar situations as Peyton. One such person was Devon Carrow-Sperduti, a now 10-year-old boy who suffers from life-threatening allergies that prevent him from attending school. But Devon doesn’t miss any classes because his robotic replacement is able to interact with his classmates and teacher much like any other student. A report from ABC News explained that during school hours, the boy remains in his bedroom at home, but his face is transmitted to a screen on top of VGo. Teachers can ask him questions, he can raise his hand, or even share a joke with a classmate.

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Robots are playing an increasingly important role in today’s society, and robotification — the process by which tasks normally performed by humans are replaced with machines of some kind — has already started.

[Image via Matt Cardy/Getty Images News]