MeBot is described by its MIT creators as a "semi-autonomous robotic avatar" for use as a teleconferencing or telepresence device. MeBot's specialty is non-verbal communication.
(MeBot from MIT)
We conducted an experiment that evaluated how people perceived a robot-mediated operator differently when they used a static telerobot versus a physically embodied and expressive telerobot. Results showed that people felt more psychologically involved and more engaged in the interaction with their remote partners when they were embodied in a socially expressive way. People also reported much higher levels of cooperation both on their own part and their partners as well as a higher score for enjoyment in the interaction.
I think the first time I read about this idea was in Niven and Pournelle's 1981 novel Oath of Fealty. In the story, little remote operated robots puckishly called "Arr-Twos" were used to help Chief Engineer Tony Rand see everything at once in an enormous arcology:
He had to follow the minutiae, because he didn't know what would turn out to be vital.
That led to his development of robot probes; small devices with cameras and sound equipment which could move freely through Todos Santos under Rand's direct control. If he sent out two or three of the small tele-operated devices (he called them Arr-twos after the small droid in Star Wars), Rand could effectively be in several places at once, see machinery and construction details in real time from both above and below, and generally explore without leaving his bedroom.
(Read more about Niven and Pournelle's robot probes)
There are probably earlier references, but that's the first time I encountered the idea of a telepresence robot. Readers?
Learn more about other efforts to bring telepresence robots, well, into your presence: