By Josh Erdman, Senior Consultant
Pop culture has done a great job exposing us to telepresence robots. From The Good Wife to The Big Bang Theory – it’s easy to poke fun at the obvious absurdity of the telepresence robot. So while I doubt many of us have actually seen one in use at the office, it does make me curious if a robot or two at work could become mainstream as we look forward to 2017. I gotta admit – the thought of seeing an image of a co-workers’ disembodied head putzing around on a Segway frame does make me wish I had made a strategic telepresence robot purchase on Black Friday.
Me + AV
So much ink has been used announcing (or denouncing) the rise of autonomous vehicles. While several large tech companies have committed their resources to join this movement – it will be some time before an autonomous vehicle (AV) will ever trickle down to the middle class. I see telepresence robots as a half-step towards the everyday AV.
Unlike an AV, you are required to pilot your telepresence device. However, without any significant peripheral vision, depth perception, and the loss of sound fidelity of your environment, you are reliant on the built-in sensors and algorithms for crash avoidance. It is here, where sensors, processing, and the user-interface merge to create an experience that is compatible with the commingling of people on a daily basis. (And also the source of endless hours of comedic material, clearly.)
Your Telepresence is [not] Requested
Telepresence Robots are certainly affordable, with prices starting at $699 and climbing astronomically ($16,000+) based on features, warranty coverage, etc. Many of these features are must-haves if you want to be as untethered and independent as possible – such as auto-dock and crash avoidance. I am sure it would get pretty old needing to find someone to plug in a charging cable at the end of the day or detangle a rogue data cable that got caught in your tire.
As we go into the early days of this new technology, I propose that history will repeat itself. Instead of the farmer using his oxen to pull the stuck model-T out of the mud, it will be the office worker – rebooting the crashed robot.