Great report, Cabe. I've wondered for some time when some corporate accountants will start to decide that it's cheaper to keep employees at home because it reduces the size and overhead costs of centralized facilities. If that happens, then telepresence robots seem like the next logical step.
I telecommute 100% of the time. On occasion I must deal with unruly coworkers. So my question is: will there be a robot available that will let me roll up to a coworker in the office and slap them upside the head to get their attention or announce my displeasure? That would be progress indeed.
Definitely a novelty at this point in time. In order for systems like this to more into the mainstream, obviously cost is an issue, but there is also a need to target the necessary set of features that would draw a larger following (especially if the cost is still high). Very interesting concept.
I see these bots as more of a novelty in most cases. People who need to interact with co-workers and have to be mobile would benefit. But I think the tech concept really shines in the situation with Devon, the sick child who attends school with it. It's the best alternative to being there.
I remember when telepresence was a wheeled in tube television and a stationary camera. It's about time this exists. I just hope the price comes down in the near future. Affordable high-end tech spurs innovation. Look at the smartphone's tech bloom.
Well, these robots are certainly pretty cool and give telecommuting a whole new meaning. But like some of the other comments made, I also am not sure how useful they would be unless someone's actual physical presence was really required at work. In my experience, the joy of telecommuting is that people don't necessarily get to see you while you're working at home--it sort of defeats the whole "working in your PJs" mystique (guilty as charged!). The technology itself is interesting, though, and certainly could have its valid applications.
In a recent blog I wrote on the growth of service robots http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=257119 a commenter asked about the difference between professional and personal service robots. The robots in Cabe's article here are a good example of personal service robots based on a design platform very similar to some professional service robots: the medical telepresence robots used increasingly in hospitals, which DN's Elizabeth Montalbano wrote about here: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=249227
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