Anybots: Telepresence Robots for $15,000
Anybots is offering up robots that can act as your stand-in at meetings and far-flung factories. The company’s QB robots can be controlled via a remote computer, beaming audio and video to their masters. This looks like an early step towards the avatars in the movie Surrogates, where virtually everyone became a shut-in and lived via mechanical robots.
The QB robot looks like it has a Segway as feet, not much of a body and a head that carries an LCD, microphone, webcam and speaker. It can be used to follow check in on a warehouse or take your seat at a conference table. Telepresence offerings from companies like Cisco and HP offer much higher fidelity, but they generally tie users down to a single room or location. A QB robot can go just about anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
The big news here is the price tag: $15,000. That’s still out of reach for most consumers, but the price is well worth it for some businesses who can avoid travel and increase productivity. The price is expected to come down to about $5,00o over the next few years.
One use outlined on Anybots.com is for bosses to monitor their employees at the office while they’re relaxing on trips.
While the QB looks cool for observing things, it doesn’t have any arms or legs, which limits its potential uses. You can’t kick anything out of the way or pick up an object to examine it. But never fear, Anybots is already working on humanoid robots that are much more advanced. As you can see in the below video, Anybots has figured out how to make self-balancing robots that can poke at each other.
I enjoy travelling, but it would be cool to be able to rent an Anybots robot and take a virtual tour of exotic locations during my lunch break.
The robots can go up to 3.5MPH and will last up to eight horus on a single charge. A docking station charges the QB in about two hours. The robots receive their commands via 802.11g. A still image or video stream of the controller’s face can be displayed above the robot’s eyes.
I’m sure we’ll hear more from this company, and perhaps we’ll live in a world like in the movie trailer above. I’d like to attach a MiFi or OverDrive card onto one of these things and see how people react to it. Maybe I can someday send one of these to Las Vegas to walk the CES show floor on my behalf.