Robot to bring virtual rolling tours of campus library

This version corrects that only the Texas Education Telecommunications Network was previously used at a presentation at the George Bush Presidential Library.

Victor Cuellar demonstrates how the VGo, a remotely controlled robot, works outside of the room it is being controlled from on Thursday at The Waco Convention Center. Baylor will use the robot to give virtual tours of the Armstrong Browning Library.
Matthew McCarroll | Lariat Photographer

By Jade Mardirosian
Staff Writer

Baylor Libraries has committed to purchase VGo, a remotely controlled robot that will be used for virtual tours of Armstrong Browning Library Baylor hopes the tool will help enhance learning for students in grades K-12. Use of a VGo robot was demonstrated Thursday by Baylor Libraries staff at the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance Summit at the Waco Convention Center.

Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of university libraries, said Baylor hopes to have its own VGo by early January in time for the new semester. Orr said projects for the VGo will begin with Baylor’s various libraries — including tours that explore books, artifacts, manuscripts and illustrations of the famous Robert Browning’s 19th century poem “The Pied Piper Of Hamelin”— but other possibilities are endless.

“We anticipate our first project is going to be Pied Piper tours for fifth grade classes in the Armstrong Browning Library, but we also have many treasures to share in the other libraries. We have also discussed ways to partner with the Mayborn Museum,” Orr said.

“I think it would be fun to take VGo to a Lady Bears game or to go for a walk around campus. There are all kinds of things we could do.”

Orr said that the main use for the VGo robot will be to share educational resources with students in Waco and potentially across the nation.

“Primarily we are going to focus on resources we have here at Baylor that we would like to share with others,” Orr said. “We would like for classes that do not get to take field trips to have educational opportunities to see those resources.”

The VGo robot costs around $7,000 and comes with one year of service.

After the first year, service is $100 a month or $1,200 a year.

The VGo robot uses real-time audio and video communications to connect people in different places.

The system, which needs a wireless network to operate, works through the VGo PC Application, which enables the users to control where the robot moves, essentially controlling what the users are looking at.

The VGo robot has a battery life of 12 hours and weighs about 22 pounds.

Orr said that the budget for the VGo project at Baylor is around $10,000 since the libraries hope to purchase a network in a bag(a wireless network that can be set up at any location) and laptop in a bag (a laptop that will be set up specifically with VGo software), which it plans to send to various schools in order to facilitate tours of Baylor’s resources.

The VGo robot can connect more than one user or audience at a time, but only one user can control where the robot moves and what it looks at.

John Korb, advanced applications and statewide distance learning coordinator for Texas Education Telecommunications Network, was also at the demonstration and is working with Baylor to explore the best uses for the VGo.

Korb said the Texas Education Telecommunications Network has previously been used at the George Bush Presidential Library when former First Lady Barbara Bush has done book readings for students.

“We have had, at the Bush Library, presentations — over 30,000 students connected [over the TETN network],” Korb said.