For years people have been speculating when robots might be ready to go mainstream. Back at the beginning of 2007, Bill Gates famously declared robots as the “next big thing” and that the industry was at the same place as the PC market in the late 70s – just ready to take off! Well, we’ve been waiting for a while now. But something significant has indeed transpired in the last 7 years that we didn’t see on the horizon – the smartphone. The release of the iPhone a few months after Bill Gates declaration would signal the beginning of the mobile revolution, and that fact – along with cloud technologies and social/collaboration breakthroughs – has transformed how we live, the way we do business, and how we interact with others. Thanks to these emerging and disruptive technologies in the area of mobile, cloud, and collaboration, we’ve seen the emergence of a field known as Telepresence robotics.
Telepresence robots, which are usually similar in shape and design to a Segway device, are wheeled systems that are controlled wirelessly by means of a computer or smartphone. These mobile video conferencing machines– compared to “Skype on Wheels” – enable end users to bridge the distance gap and offer means to remotely drive around the office, talk to colleagues, attend meetings, and interact as if they were physically present. A number of Telepresence devices began to emerge about 5 years ago, but the price points on these were generally high – on average of $10,000 or more. But now thanks to the combination of SMAC technologies (Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud), we’re seeing the prices of Telepresence robotics drop significantly. And as prices fall, the technology becomes more accessible.
One article has well described the state of the Telepresence robotics industry as follows:
Telepresence robotics is at an inflection point. Costs are dropping and market penetration of supporting technologies is increasing. The smart phone, tablet and rise of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement has helped make visual collaboration technology affordable. Many telepresence robot companies are leveraging the ability of the consumer to provide devices that used to be central but can now be considered peripheral. Just add a tablet or smartphone and voila! You now have a telepresence solution mounted on a telepresence robot, tripod or mobile mount.
Turning yourself into a robot is becoming a trendy and more cost effective way to connect to your workplace remotely. And because of the decrease in price points there are increasing numbers of options to a market that was previously prohibitive to the average consumer. There are a number of great options out there for those that want to get onboard with this latest revolution.
This is a sleek and robust enterprise-grade Telepresence device that was released in 2012. Built by Suitable Technologies, the BeamPro offers high-end video and audio capabilities including a 17 inch 4:3 LCD screen coupled with two wide-angle cameras along with a 6 microphone array that cancels echo and background noise. BeamPro’s battery lasts for 8 hours. Two dual-band radios, or an optional 4-G card, offers users seamless real-time connectivity to their remote office environs. BeamPro is priced competitively at $16,000, which is still on the high end of Telepresence devices. But enterprises in need of a robust device will need to search no further for the right combination of durability, mobility, and connectivity.
Double was introduced to the market in 2013 as a lower priced Telepresence option at $2500. The device is a self-balancing unit, which represents a sleek and unique design, showing the innovative use of gyroscopes and accelerometers. The design shows a growing trend among Telepresence devices of using the iPad (or other comparable tablets) as the head-mounted display. The Double represents a lower-cost option that is putting Telepresence in the hands of more and more businesses and individuals.
To be continued . . .