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How robots bring the mob life to you


NewsHubLas Vegas’s Mob Museum is one of few museums to offer telepresence robot tours.
Pamela Forth was determined to bring a little culture into her fiancé’s life.
That was no easy feat. Two decades earlier, a car accident left Roger Sprong a quadriplegic with limited mobility. That made any trip too far beyond his Valparaiso, Indiana, home a challenge.
But Forth, a 61-year-old teacher from Palm Harbor, Florida, was determined, and learned about telepresence robots — roughly 5-foot tall machines with a large display and cameras, all on wheels — that let people with physical disabilities remotely tour different venues. As it turned out, the Mob Museum in Las Vegas had just invested in such a robot, the Beam Pro from Suitable Technologies, and was looking for guinea pigs.
So in March, Forth and Sprong sat together on his bed, turned on his computer, downloaded the software and piloted the robot through the first floor of the museum, which features a long hallway adorned with pictures of all the known mob “Made Men” and their associates.
Sprong used his keyboard to maneuver the robot, which the museum affectionately calls “Moe-Bot. ”
“It was neat to go on a virtual date together,” Forth said.
They had a blast, and made plans to see the final two floors. But Sprong died in August before he was able to complete the tour. Even so, his feedback helped shape the experience for future guests — many of whom deal with physical ailments.
The five-year-old Mob Museum is just one of 10 museums who’ve adopted the Beam Pro robot to give people a chance to view an exhibit virtually. Other museums include the San Diego Museum of Art and the de Young Museum in San Francisco. As Forth and Sprong found, that’s a massive boon to people with physical disabilities, opening a pipeline into an array of cultural experiences.
This is what happens when a CNET editor tries to get away from CES 2017 for a little bit.
“We certainly see Beam use growing in the museum and cultural arts markets,” said Christa Cliver, director of education business development at Suitable Technologies, which at CES 2017 announced a faster, longer-lasting version of its robot .

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