Think of Lydon Baty as the modern version of the bubble boy. Although his body is usually safely at home, to guard against germs his bodies can’t handle, his mind isn’t trapped there. It travels around by robot.

Not literally. We’re not there yet. But Lydon has a robot surrogate who goes to school for him.

The first couple weeks were rough. On Lyndon’s side the setup was straightforward enough: Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast — all the standard getting-ready-for-school stuff. Then open the laptop and log in to school. The interface is simple and keyboard-based, which is sort of a shame, because all it needs is a joystick or proper controller for the whole thing to feel like a video game.

But Lyndon never technically learned how to pilot the bot before the first day of school, so moving from Points A to B took some trial and error. He’d never even been inside the high school, so he was figuring out the controls as the same time he was figuring out the campus. “I ran into doors,” he says. “Teachers. Bathrooms. Girls.”

At school the bot’s novelty wore off fast, but it was even more valuable than expected. Lyndon’s wisecracking and attention-loving nature didn’t just make it easier for people to interact with him; it’s what’s kept him engaged. When Mr. Moeller had to chew out two girls for picking on Lyndon via the robot — taping paper over the camera eye, picking it up from behind and turning it around with Lyndon unable to see the culprits — their response was: “We’d be picking on Lyndon the same if he was here.”

“His personality helps out a lot,” says Kent Deville, Lyndon’s chemistry teacher. “A shier kid would have problems.” Lyndon isn’t afraid to call out when he needs help, and he uses the bot’s tricks to his advantage. He can zoom in, take photos of the whiteboard and homework corrections and refer back to everything later. “It’s like H.G. Wells,” Mr. Deville says. Kelsey Vasquez, a classmate, says Lyndon is actually more outgoing as the robot. “He’s shier in person,” she says, at least until he’s had time to relax. “I don’t think I could be as happy as he is.”

Lyndon Baty and the Robot That Saved Him

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