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New Packers Robots Help Keep Team Connected

Robots Have Visited Kenosha Boys & Girls Club, Childhood Cancer Survivors And More

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Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster visited with a Green Bay Packers fan at Aspiro on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. The team is using new robots to stay connected with the community during the coronavirus pandemic. Megan Hart/WPR

Earlier this month, clients and employees at Aspiro in Green Bay donned their green and gold in honor of special visitors.

The nonprofit, which provides day services and employment training for adults with disabilities, welcomed two recent additions to the Green Bay Packers — the team’s new “player appearance robots.” They were manned by backup quarterback Tim Boyle and defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster.

The wheeled robots are about 5 feet tall, with a tablet on top that functions like a head. The players drive them remotely, seeing and speaking to people along the way. The robots are 3D printed and weigh just 20 pounds.

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Boyle and Lancaster maneuvered between tables, a task that required some getting used to at first, chatting with clients about their favorite players and Packers memories dating back to the Ice Bowl.

Boyle greeted one young man who said he plays linebacker on a Special Olympics team. That’s not his favorite position, the Packers quarterback joked.

Classroom instructor Audrey Morris said it’s the first time robots have come to campus.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, moving around as if they were a person. I actually tripped over one,” she said.

Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster meets with a woman at Aspiro in Green Bay. Megan Hart/WPR

It’s a real treat for the clients, she said.

“We do our best to switch it up and keep our minds off all the chaos that’s going around, but this is just a nice break,” Morris said. “And these guys are going to talk about it for weeks to come, so we really appreciate it.”

Aspiro client Alyssa Denor, from Denmark, said her dad will be jealous she got to see Boyle and Lancaster. The 34-year-old said she talked to the players about her upcoming birthday.

It’s a day she’ll remember, she added.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on this year’s NFL season. The Packers normally welcome thousands of fans to training camp, but this year it was closed to the public. Spectators have yet to attend a game at Lambeau Field.

But the new robots are helping the team stay connected to the community. They’ve already visited the Boys & Girls Club in Kenosha, as well as childhood cancer survivors, a team representative said.

The robots were created by OhmniLabs in California. Thirteen other professional teams have also purchased them, including the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, according to a company representative.

Though the robots look like they’re from the future, prices start under $3,000.

Demand has spiked amid the pandemic in sectors ranging from education and health care to virtual tourism, the company said.

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