Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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Telepresence solutions for the remote worker – part 3

out of officeEmerging technologies such as cloud, mobile, and social media have created unprecedented opportunities for the world of work. More than ever, companies are seeing the value of flexible work arrangements that allow employees to do their jobs from anywhere and in any way possible. The cost savings of these arrangements are not hard to figure as businesses easily save on real estate, utilities, electricity, and other associated in-house expenses. And while  there is no substitute for being in the office, technology is doing a pretty good job of “filling the gap” and making remote collaboration more appealing and realistic. An area of innovation that has gained rapid traction in recent years is known as “Telepresence robotics” and may prove to be a major channel for some day propelling robots into the mainstream.


Skype on Wheels


The increasing need for companies to find solutions to more effectively communicate and collaborate has led a number of high tech startups in recent years to develop the new market of remote Telepresence robotics. While we’re all familiar with VoIP technologies like Skype, Google Talk, and WebEx, these tools still don’t give a remote worker the sense of “being there” in the office. The concept of Telepresence essentially involves adding mobility to the existing VoIP system. 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.


Telepresence robots come in all different shapes and sizes and range in price from $500 up to $16000. Some of the major players on the market are:


  • MantaroBot “TeleMe”
  • VGo Communications “VGo”
  • Anybots “QB”
  • Suitable Technologies “Beam”
  • Revolve Robotics “Kubi”







(chart courtesy of; please make note that the price for Revolve Robotic’s “Kubi” is now $499)


Cost and Market Projections


The global market for Telepresence robots is very formidable. According to Philip Solis, research director for emerging technologies at ABI Research, sales of Telepresence robots is projected to reach $13 billion by 2017.


The major challenge in the Telepresence robotics market right now is cost. Most of the commercially available Telepresence systems are like luxury items and are out of the price range of most individuals. For example, when Apple introduced its first Apple II systems in 1977 with 4K RAM it ran for $1298; the 48K RAM version ran for $2638, or more than double the cost for 12 times more memory. So Telepresence can be in some ways compared to the PC market of the late 70s . . . poised to take off but still very expensive for most consumers. Resolve Robotics “Kubi” is the least expensive option at only $500 but the tradeoff is that it remains stationary while providing pan and tilt functionality for greater interactivity on conference calls and meetings.


Another factor with Telepresence robots is that they’re still seen as intrusive. While the technology is improving rapidly, the sight of an automated platform roaming around the office on wheels is still a bit awkward – even though this reaction is not unlike the response to most new technologies.


Telepresence robotics has a lot of potential for revolutionizing the way that people collaborate and work together remotely. Telepresence robots add mobility features to already existing VoIP technologies like Skype. By directing the robot wirelessly via controls on a mobile device or PC,  Telepresence robots offer remote works a nice way to “bridge the gap” and make themselves feel more present in the office even if they’re thousands of miles away. These devices are still luxury items in many ways but the market looks promising as prices will invariably continue to drop.






Telepresence videoconferencing and robotics are interesting options, but what does it mean to implement an effective Telepresence strategy into an organization and what are the implications for the business? Stay tuned as that will be the topic for discussion in Part 4.


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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.