Telepresence In The Office


(Telepresence in the office)

The first time I opened the Double interface in Chrome and clicked on an icon of my robot 3,000 miles away I was greeted by the pixelated image of my boss’s torso and a few headless coworkers. There probably were some instructions somewhere that I should have read, but I didn’t. “How do I move it?” I asked them. “We don’t know,” they said. I clicked around. Nothing. I tried the arrow keys and, boom, jolted out of the robot’s charging dock and toward onlookers. I was like a foal, learning to walk. It took about 10 minutes to discover that a) driving a robot using a browser interface is clunky and b) the hip flooring choices of WIRED’s office were going to be my nemesis, with every transition from concrete to rubber to carpet providing another opportunity to fall on my screen.

Diary Entry: Day 2
I roll over behind Sam’s desk for a brief chat about a deadline. She hasn’t heard me approach. I don’t know what to do. If I just say her name she’ll freak out. I Hipchat her, “Look behind you.” As soon as I do it, I realize that’s creepy—but it’s too late. She turns and there I am.

“Hi,” I say as casually as possible, “I just–”

Sam cuts me off. “Em,” she says, “can you control the volume? You’re very loud.”

“I am?” I ask.

“YES,” the entire bullpen yells.

I find and adjust the volume. I guess I was screaming all day.

I first encountered this idea about thirty-five years ago. Science fiction writers Niven and Pournelle visualized it quite neatly 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)

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