High-tech options for on-site commencements

Two ideas include using robots for virtual handshakes during live commencements where not everyone can attend and creating a drive-in commencement event to maintain social distancing
By: and | Issue: May/June 2020
May 13, 2020
Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence on UnsplashPhoto by Jeremiah Lawrence on Unsplash

College and university leaders considering various in-person and online graduation event scenarios will want to know about these two innovative ideas.

• VR and rover robots: Before virtual became the only commencement option, Southern New Hampshire University lined up a digital experience for those who would be unable to celebrate in person. SNHU planned to use three enhanced virtual reality cameras, along with a rover robot acting as a surrogate graduate, during its live commencement. Through the robot’s view, students could “walk” up on stage to virtually shake President Paul LeBlanc’s hand. While this year’s COVID-19 spring doesn’t allow for this type of mixed event, it may serve future commencements and graduates unable to attend for health or other reasons.

• Drive-in commencement: At least one company has created a solution that can be purchased—involving a ceremonial drive rather than walk. Austin, Texas-based Ultimate Outdoor Entertainment, which also has locations in 15 other states plus Washington, D.C., is offering a Mobile Drive-In Theater package. In the event, photos and videos of graduates, whether previously filmed or live-streamed, can be shared on a large screen in place of the traditional walk across the stage. The company previously offered Mobile Drive-In LED Screen packages for Easter Sunday services, which led to a spike in inquiries from high schools and colleges.

Read the main article on virtual commencements during school closures due to COVID-19.


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