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Affordable telepresence robots heading home (cnet.com)
20 points by wheeler69 on Jan 15, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments

Telepresence is likely the first killer app for robotics. It's been possible for quite some time now but very difficult to do well.

The ubiquity of good, low-power wireless networking was the holdup. Our phones and tablets have finally brought this about.

First the robots appear as a toy to watch your pets from work, then you personal assistant pops in twice a day from India/Africa/(low wage outsource of the moment), and finally Siri rolls around your house picking up your socks (and informing the NSA if your feet smell at all terrorist-like).

Welcoming robot overlords and all that 20th century slashdot yap...

Telepresence might start breaking into manufacturing by allowing one worker control of multiple robots at once from a remote location. I've seen prototypes of this already, but nothing solid. Maybe the costs are still too high.

Workers are still exceptionally cheap. I'd sooner expect to see it used to bring a worker from Bangladesh to a factory in Germany. It would multiplex the opposite direction: many "cheap" workers rotating to keep a single robot working 24/7 in an "expensive" country.

Telepresence robots seem like a narrow niche to me. I'm not sure I see them breaking into home use.

They offer two advantages over video on a tablet-

1) Height, and therefore a certain kind of sense of presence that might be useful in a business setting. It makes you a bit more a part of a meeting than a speakerphone on a desk, or even a tablet on a desk. Harder to ignore or overlook.

2) Mobility. Useful in office settings, certainly. Useful for a doctor making rounds, that kind of thing. Less useful in a home, and currently stairs of any kind would be a showstopper. As would doors (which could be automated in an office/hospital/etc, but not likely in a home).

For more intimate contact with family, though, it seems to me a tablet is far superior. They can be held and moved by the person on each end, and held closer as well. Plus they just seem more personal.

Telepresence Robots seem useful for cases where you want a sense of personal space around your video image. Tablets seem more useful for when you explicitly don't.

2 hours of battery life seems pretty short. The tablet portion should probably have a separate battery and can then have a 7-10 hour battery life, like most tablets these days.

Maybe they should add a wireless charger to the package. When the batteries get down to 10%, the unit automatically wheels back to the charging station.

Now, if there's a sleeping dog in the way, or a box or something, then the robot's out of luck, but otherwise it just takes care of itself, like a person going to the toilet once in a while.

The other obvious thing the product needs is a robotic arm. So useful. Obviously, bringing the medicine to a bedbound patient springs to mind, but the uses are really unlimited.

I've always felt that a race to the bottom has been inevitable for telepresence robots. Just look at what happened to Android tablets.

This 50% subsidized pricing on a new product tells me the race has already begun.

Only a matter of time before Google steps in, what with their robotics and iphone designer purchases.

Maybe I'm getting old, but the thought of a father tucking their kids in from the office does not sit well with me...

Agreed. Why can't it be the other way around? The robot being at the office and the father being at home.

I could imagine small children developing attachment to the robot(or the father projected through the robot) instead of the father.

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