Here WeGO! Robot Debuts at Mote Aquarium

3D telepresence is the newest technology at Sarasota’s Mote Aquarium, and it’s not an experience for visitors to the world-renowned aquarium. It’s for kids hundreds of miles away in hospital beds.

The WeGo Robot debuts this week, and Sarasota Events Calendar was on hand at the press conference to see first hand how this technology will help to brighten the time spent in hospitals for children awaiting surgery.

Here’s how it works: The Double 3 robot is controllable by hospitalized children using a computer or iPad to drive the webcam allowing them the chance to see, hear, talk and move as if they are physically at the Aquarium. The purpose of the program is to ease anxiety and isolation that comes along with pediatric inpatient hospitalizations. See the video of WeGo Robot at work at the Mote here

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium partnered with the WeGo Project to utilize a telepresence robot on private, guided tours throughout Mote Aquarium. With the ability to drive the robot anywhere in the tour space, children often enjoy just being in control of a robot.  During the tour, young participants will be able to explore exhibits with animals native to Florida and discover the impacts they have on our ecosystems. “Mote was really excited to be a part of this project,” said Mote’s Associate Vice President of Education Aly Busse, “we want to give all children the opportunity to explore marine environments and learn about the animals that inhabit them through safe and comfortable experiences.”

WeGo Program Manager, Natalie Marrero, suggested Mote as the next new location for the project. Originally from Florida, Natalie is excited to expand into her hometown and remembers the joy kids felt at Mote Aquarium from her childhood. According to WeGo Project’s founder Galen Shi, the project allows “patients an escape from their hospital beds to just be children again.”

WeGo primarily connects patients from local hospitals, but they said that physical distance isn’t a problem. That’s the whole point of the robot, “kids get to go somewhere they wouldn’t normally be able to go,” said Shi. Through the WeGo Project, Mote Aquarium will partner in the mission that pushes the limits of what a child with chronic illness can stereotypically do.

On my visit to the Mote to experience this new wave of technology, I didn’t need use of 3D glasses like I use at AMC movies. This technology is the emergence of  very cool, new communication techniques and is highly needed in the healthcare industry. Mote took this technology to a new level by giving real time experiences of seeing otters at play, turtles swimming, manatees playing and even going so far as to allow the child to control the robot to zoom into a tank to see up close.

In short, telepresence gives children the feeling that they’re actually at the aquarium.

Mote hosted their first tours on March 1st and Melby said the children had a blast. The children on the first round of tours are hospitalized at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Melby explained any children’s hospital from across the country can take part in touring Mote Marine. The WeGo Foundation has several other places children can explore including the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

“We have kids that are permanent residents of the hospital and can do this on a weekly basis. We’re also working with kids who are coming in for short term and they do this tour before their procedures or hospital visits,” said Melby.

According to Melby, the tour help cut down on stress and anxiety related to medical procedures. She added they have kids of all ages from 5-years-old all the way up to 17-years-old.

The tour is a collaboration between the hospitals and Mote Marine getting the WeGo Guests logged in and touring.

“We have a volunteer on their end so we’ve been in touch a day before and got an idea,” explained Melby. “They have a password to our computer and the volunteer on their end connects with the WeGo Robot and they come up on the screen.”

Melby said they then ask the WeGo guests what they want to do, see or learn, and they can travel wherever they want. The children also get the opportunity to interact with other Mote guests and talk to them from the robot. Melby explained the main goal is education and allowing these kids to have autonomy.

“These kids are being told what to do all day and they’re stuck in their hospital beds,” said Melby, who also explained sometimes the guests are going through procedures while on the tour like tube changes.

Hopefully, Florida hospitals will come onboard with the new program for the benefit of Florida kids who are in hospitals with health challenges.

About Mote: Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)3 research institution founded in 1955. Mote began and flourished through the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family.

Today, Mote is based in Sarasota, Florida, with five campuses stretching from Sarasota to the Florida Keys. Mote has more than 20 world-class research programs studying oceans locally to internationally, with an emphasis on conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing the Lab’s research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Fla., 34236. 941.388.4441



Andrea Martone

Andrea Martone is a former Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Sarasota Observer Newspaper Group, as well as a former Editor-in-Chief of a Long Island (New York) newspaper chain. She moved to Sarasota 14 years ago after working as an executive in NYC in public relations and marketing. She currently is a Public relations & marketing consultant and President of Insightful PR. She lives and breathes all things art, culture, music food and wine and is proud to be the Executive Editor of Sarasota Events Calendar.

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