Law Student Went to Class Through a Robot

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 08, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Tess was a robot in law school.

No, not like Siri or Alexa. And not like those students who are more machine than human.

Tess Messiha, confined to bed rest during her pregnancy, attended UC Irvine School of Law through a robot. This is not the wave of the future; it is already here.

Telepresence Robot

UC Irvine has adapted robot technology to help students attend school virtually. Judy Olson, a professor emerita in information and computer sciences there, explained the "telepresence robot."

"[T]here's a sense of presence, a sense of really being in school," she said.

Messiha said it was the next best thing to being in class. Through a visual display mounted on a 4-foot robot, she interacted with professors and students in real-time.

"More than 98 percent of the time I was able to see and hear my professors clearly, actively participate with questions and answers, and keep up with my other classmates who were physically in their seats," she said.

From Home or Hospital

Leslie Morissette, who founded a nonprofit that helps sick children attend school through robots, has connected more than 1,500 to their classrooms virtually. She told CNN that the robots transport the kids into their classrooms.

"They can operate the robot right from their hospital bed or home," she said. And it goes beyond the classroom.

"The real magic happens between classes, when they're walking down the hallway with their friends, by robot, talking about their weekend and their favorite foods and just all the kid stuff," she said.

Law students, naturally, are talking about law review, moot court, and clerkships.

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