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See hospitalized kids 'run the bases' at Dodger Stadium, via robots

Take me out to the ball game, bots.

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Richie visits the baseball field from the hospital. 

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Pediatric patients at a Los Angeles hospital got to run the bases at Dodger Stadium, thanks to telepresence robots that transported them from their beds onto the baseball field. 

With tablets in hand, 10 patients at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital moved the wheeled robots around the diamond, and even chatted with Los Angeles Dodgers players face to face. 

"Turn it that way, there we go," Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux coached a patient, who was maneuvering the robot around the field from afar, using buttons that direct the bot backward and forward. "Hey, you did a great job running the bases," Lux said, getting up close to the display atop the robot's base, which let him interact with the young baseball fan via video chat. Young fans get to run the bases after some Dodgers home games, and this gave the ill children a chance to participate. 

The foldable Ohmni Telepresence Robots, from OhmniLabs, stand just under 5 (1.5 meters) feet tall and weigh 20 pounds (9 kilograms). For this occasion, they wore blue and white Dodgers jerseys. Some of the patients also donned Dodgers garb. 

"Experiences like this are incredibly powerful for patients who cannot leave their hospital rooms or homes because of their health conditions," Kelli Carroll, director of the Child Life Program at UCLA Health, said in a statement. 

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Telepresence robots aren't new. Among their many uses, they've allowed sick kids to attend school and beamed students who had to be out of town at prom time to the big event. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought the robots' many potential uses into sharper relief.

"Hopefully, you get better and you can come out here, and we can play some catch," a player told a patient named Crew who plays right center field and catcher. Here's wishing Crew, and all others, a lifetime of home runs.