Telepresence Robot Roundup With Anybot

Telepresence robots allow a remote user to not only view a distant scene (like a conference room or job site) but to move around and explore it. A variety of robots are shown below to illustrate the many uses to which robotic telepresence may be put.


A recent startup entry is Anybots, which makes the $15,000 device shown below accosting a local worker.

(Anybot telepresence robot)

At the Anybots lab in Mountain View, Calif., a row of robots sits silently waiting to be awakened and called to duty. Blackwell clicks a thumbnail image of one model on his laptop screen and then moves the robot forward, backward, left or right by pressing the arrow keys on the keyboard.

The Anybot leans forward and then its two wheels start rolling much like a Segway. The top speed is three miles an hour, and infrared radar prevents the robot from bumping into anything. The head, which sits atop a telescoping pole, has two “eyes,” one for capturing video and the other for a still camera. The operator can also use a laser pointer in the head to point things out. A speaker on the robot’s head lets the operator talk to people with the robot, while a mic picks up their comments back to him.

HeadThere Giraffe Telepresence Robot

Special software on your PC or laptop allows you to log into your Giraffe and control its movements, including scooting here and there by maneuvering the robot's base. Presumably, you have a computer with voice input; this allows you to talk to others remotely.

(HeadThere Giraffe telepresence robot)

The screen has a remotely-adjustable tilt to allow you to pan the camera; it also makes it look like you're actually paying attention.

Tmsuk Telepresence Shopper

Tmsuk has introduced a telepresence shopper robot; a prototype is shown below. The robotic shopper responds to commands sent by remote cell phone users.

(Tmsuk TMSUK-4 humanoid telepresence robot)

In a recent demonstration in the city of Kitakyushu, Japan, an infirm grandmother was able to control the telepresence shopper robot with an NTT DoCoMo video-capable cell phone.

IvanAnywhere Do-It-Yourself Telepresence Robot

Programmer Ivan Bowman telecommutes to work by running his robotic alter-ego IvanAnywhere around the office. This is a catch-up story for me; I'd seen this idea about a quarter-century ago in a Niven and Pournelle novel.

(Ivan Bowman and telerobot IvanAnywhere)

RP-7 Telepresence Robot Dad

A remote-controlled telepresence robot was used by Army Staff Sgt. Erik Lloyd to see and interact with his family and seven day-old son. The (rather good-looking) camo-enhanced device has a live video uplink and responds to remote control.

(RP-7 telepresence robot impersonates a military man)

InTouch Companion: Medical Rounding Robot

InTouch Health is now leasing a remote-controlled medical telepresence robot called The Companion to hospitals and nursing homes nationwide. The 200 pound robots stand about five feet tall and have computer screens for "heads"; they are controlled remotely by physicians with a wireless broadband Internet connection, the right software and a joystick control.

(From Robotic doctor makes the rounds at Oakwood hospital)

The modern field of telepresence robotics is a good example of what science fiction writers Niven and Pournelle were talking about in their 1981 novel Oath of Fealty. A chief engineer uses robot probes to be several places at once in a huge arcology.

at 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...
(Read more about robot probes)

This is a relatively early reference to this technology; serious real-world efforts didn't get started until the mid-1990's. Do you know an earlier reference?

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/28/2010)

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