I watched Star Wars
and I, Robot
years ago, but I never thought that a walking robot would be viable, at least not right now. Once again, I'm wrong. I’m happy to say robots are walking among us, specifically, Double Robotics’ robots. The company uses iPads with its telepresence robots, which aim to make our lives easier. Telepresence is a kind of videoconference service that is hyped as offering a more "realistic" virtual face-to-face meeting. But really, how realistic is it yammering to a colleague with a metal beanpole body and a boxy flat-screen face? It's kinda creepy but in a cool way. The telepresence robot is half robot, half iPad. It uses two iPads, one to serve as the robot’s eye and the other as the controller. The robot, however, can also be controlled with an iPhone, iPod touch or a desktop Web browser. It weighs just 15 pounds and you can adjust its height whenever you want, so it can help you communicate naturally in either a sitting or standing position. The iPad app that controls the robot also gives you the option to move forward, backward and turn. When it stops, it drops down two kickstands automatically and stands in wait to conserve power. The robot can be used for everything: offices, schools, stores, facilities, museums and the list can go on and on. For example, you could ask someone located in another part of the world to show you his surroundings. It looks so cool and innovative. Double Robotics, a project backed up by Y Combinator and with a budget between $20,000 and $40,000, knocked down the price of its robots to $1,999 from $2,499. It’s unclear whether that new price point served as a catalyst for sales, because the first production run sold out. Its next shipment isn’t expected until early next year. The company is taking preorders for the next run. But be warned, the $1,999 price does not include the iPads. By the way, to ensure that the video quality is high, the app is using OpenTok iOS to iOS video service.