Sunday afternoons at Dodger Stadium are always special.
The smell of hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn fills the senses. The sun shines on Chavez Ravine with a radiant burst of energy and excitement.
After the game, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a tradition: every kid in the baseball field is invited onto the field to drive the bases, just like their favorite big leaguers.
Most parents and children therefore look forward to the Sunday afternoon games. Many probably take it for granted. But what about those kids who are physically unable to control the bases?
Children who are not ambulatory, hospitalized or recovering from an illness are physically unable to control the bases after the game like their peers. Most people probably never think about that. But UCLA Health, the Dodgers and OhmniLabs did. That’s why they’ve created a way for those kids who aren’t physically able to run the bases at Dodger Stadium, to still share the same experience as other kids.
OhmniLabs created the Ohmni Robot, an artificially intelligent machine equipped with a camera and a video screen that can be controlled from anywhere in the world via a computer, phone or tablet.
UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital selected 10 pediatric patients to control the robot on the field at Dodger Stadium from their hospital beds. These special kids were not only able to “run” the robot around the bases, but were also virtually introduced to the Dodgers’ players, Edwin Rios, Gavin Lux, and Mitch White.
“Experiences like these are incredibly powerful for patients who are unable to leave their hospital rooms or homes because of their health conditions,” said Kelli Carroll, director of Child Life Program at UCLA Health. “We are very grateful to have partners who understand the need for fun and creative ways to reduce children’s anxiety and support healing during illness.”
The Ohmni Robot, dressed in a Dodgers jersey, stood on the field at Dodger Stadium next to a player who could see the pediatric patient on the other side of the screen, also known as the robot’s head and face.
“It reminds me of Wall-E,” said Lux, referring to the cute robot from the Pixar movie of the same name.
On the other side was the child, who controlled the robot with a tablet from their hospital bed and the help of an OhmniLabs employee. The kids met and greeted their Dodgers’ player, then were given a tour of the field before getting a first-person perspective of what it’s like to run the bases at Dodger Stadium.
“The Dodgers were excited to partner with UCLA Health on this new and creative way for young people to run the bases with our players,” said Naomi Rodriguez, Dodger vice president of external affairs and community relations.
The partnership was key to enabling this experience for these patients.
“The Dodgers and UCLA Health have taken telepresence to a whole new level. It is extremely heartwarming to see so much joy on the faces of the children as they run the bases at Dodger Stadium, and we are honored to be a part of this special occasion,” said Thuc Vu, Co-Founder and CEO of Ohmni Labs.
“Hopefully you’ll get well soon so you can get out of here and we can watch a Dodgers baseball together,” Rios told the kids he met on the other side of the screen.
The final Sunday afternoon game and kids’ last chance to run bases at Dodger Stadium is against the Milwaukee Brewers on Oct. 3 at 12:10 p.m. PST.