October 31, 2012, 11:56 AM —
Double Robotics gives iPad wheels and lets you 'be there' without being there.
Telepresence robots allow you to “be” in a remote place by providing mobility, vision, and audio on a platform you control. Startup Double Robotics has leapfrogged the market with a $2,499 “body” to give your iPad wheels and an app to become your remote proxy.
Other companies have been trying this for years, including Anybots, one of the most successful to-date, and available for sale here. Anybots went for a slightly humanoid look, but the screen, built into the “forehead” of the unit, is tiny. People at the remote end must struggle to look at the small screen, rather than the two camera “eyes” on the unit.
Enter Double Robotics, and their integration of 10 inch iPads (version 2 or 3 only, because of the camera) as the “face” of their telepresence unit. The user holds an iPad the same way for Double Robotics as for a video conference, so a face will fill the screen on the remote end. DR makes the wheels (balancing like a Segway), height-adjustable stand, and app to run the Double (what they call a single unit, oddly enough). High quality video streaming is provided by OpenTok.
Based in Silicon Valley (Mountain View), Double Robotics has sold out their first pre-production order at the discounted price of $1,999. These are scheduled to be delivered in December. Orders placed now, still at the introductory rate, will be delivered early in 2013.
Uses include offices, so remote workers bring a “face” to a meeting for less than a traditional videoconferencing system. Other suggestions include museums and galleries (view art via iPad), retail stores as a kiosk providing face-to-face support, and right families staying in touch with relatives, although an iPad and a regular videoconferencing app should satisfy that need just as well.
Coolest detail? The rolling stand adjusts the height of the iPad, to make it comfortable to interact with for people either standing or sitting. Adjustments range from 47 to 60 inches, with a touch controller on the remote iPad app.
PS: iPad not included.