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Robot allows those who can't visit to take virtual tour of Seattle Art Museum

SEATTLE -- For art lovers who are bed-ridden, a trip to the Seattle Art Museum can be expensive and time consuming, especially if you live out of town.

But the museum is now testing a robot that can help these art lovers take a tour they otherwise could never take.

Two of those are Henry and Jane Evans, who toured the museum virtually, seeing whatever they want.

"This is absolutely amazing, what a great way to see a museum," Henry Evans said.

A stroke 12 years ago left henry a quadriplegic, bed ridden with no voice. And they live in California, so a trip to Seattle would cost thousands of dollars.

So basically, if not for Beam, I wouldn't go, he said.

But using "Beam," a robot with a wide angle cameras, he can navigate anywhere around the museum on his own using the arrow keys on his laptop -- keys he controls with his eyes.

"It gives me the sensation of walking and it allows me to socialize again," Henry Evans said. "It's given me a part of my life back."

And the couple can talk to anyone, even a visiting French class of kids.

"At first, I thought it was an interactive art project," said Alison Bower.

But when visitors realize he's bed ridden...

"It is so liberating and incredible," Bower said. "And that our children got to share that experience as well -- look, they are following him to see where he's going to go!"

It was Henry's idea to put Beams in museums.

"His goal is to use technology to free up bed ridden people all over the world," Jane Evans said.

The robots are very simple to use and just take minutes to learn.

The beams are $16,000, last eight hours on a charge, and just need a WiFi or cellular connection to the Internet. But in a museum?

"It was really a tough sell," said Chirag Thakkar. "As long as we had security staff watching the device's every moment it was roaming in the galleries."

A toy it's not, but eyes, ears and legs for those who can't move, it is heaven sent.

The Seattle Art Museum is one of seven museums in the country testing the 'Beams' for possible permanent use.

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