Ever wish you could attend a meeting without getting out of bed or chat with participants at a conference 2,000 miles away? You could always videochat, sure, but it's just not as meaningful as having a physical presence. Enter the telepresence robot. Google cofounder Sergey Brin made use of a Texai Skype-connected telepresence bot at an X Prize fundraiser this past weekend, shuffling around to talk to participants as if he was actually there.
The Texai open source robot used by Brin isn't yet available for purchase, but other telepresence robots are coming down the pipeline--namely, the Anybots QB robot, a 5-foot, 9-inch, 32 lb remote-controlled bot unveiled this week. The bot's technology isn't too far out. It uses an Intel 2 Core Duo CPU, a 5 megapixel eye, a low-resolution, 640-by-480 video screen, and a BSD operating system that drives the bot's motors. PCMag.com explains that the bot is as easy to control as a character in a video game--just point the bot forward and it will move without bumping into inanimate objects.
It's a quirky idea, and one that could be useful in case of emergency--i.e. a flu epidemic or a volcanic eruption that disrupts travel. But once the novelty factor wears off, we doubt that the ultra-expensive telepresence bot will become an immediate phenomenon. Ten years down the line, though, don't be surprised if a smiley-faced robot shows up at your next meeting in place of a sick colleague. QB goes on sale this fall for $15,000.