by Al Sacco

Google Robot Helps Sick Kid Remotely Throw 1st Pitch at A’s/Yankees Game

Jun 13, 20132 mins
Computers and PeripheralsMobileOperating Systems

Thirteen-year-old Nick LeGrande, who is currently house ridden with a blood disorder, got to throw the first pitch at last night's A's/Yankees game thanks to a little help from Google.

This video clip brought a smile to my drooping face this morning. And I needed a lift. After a triple-overtime Bruins loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last night, and one too many juice boxes during the game, I’m really dragging.

I attended Google’s I/O developer conference last month, and while you don’t often think of robots when you think of Google—not yet, at least—the company quietly showed off a number of cool robotics projects its working on at the show, mostly at the big I/O After Hours party. Those robots were for entertainment, but one Google “telerobotic pitching machine” yesterday helped a sick child realize one of his dreams by enabling him to remotely throw out the first pitch, from Kansas City, at an Oakland Athletics game.

All the robot really did was launch a baseball in sync with 13-year-old Nick LeGrande’s windup and delivery, but Google set up a small studio in Kansas City to help simulate the pitcher’s mound at Oakland’s Coliseum, so LeGrande could feel like he was a part of the game and partially experience the ballpark atmosphere on the mound.

LeGrande is currently battling a blood disorder called aplastic anemia, which mostly keeps him in his own home.

The video is kind of drawn out, so you can skip to 3:10 to see the first pitch. Very cool stuff. And it helps to understand how all those wacky robots at the Google I/O party could really make a difference in people’s lives. I give both Google and the Oakland A’s a lot of credit for arranging this.