Commercial telepresence robot doesn't need you to drive

Credit: iRobot

Robots are a lot like people. Some are total jerks. Some are utter maniacs. And some just live the white-collar lifestyle, wandering in and out of meetings in a corporate building from 9 to 5.

The terminology for those fancy business robots is telepresence platforms, and they've been around for a while. You log into them from a computer, and then two-way video kicks in, giving you a remote, mobile physical presence somewhere else. What's unique about the Ava 500, though, is that it's equipped with autonomous navigation. It’s the first of its kind in that regard. There’s no need to know the layout of the building, as Ava 500 comes equipped with software that helps it recognize (and avoid) obstacles in its path. Schedule it to be at a conference room at a certain time or just to wander the halls, and it'll take care of the rest.

Working remotely has never been so easy. And in an increasingly scattered business world with folks from across the globe working together in real-time, a robot like this could mean more face-to-face virtual communication, which is less of an oxymoron than it sounds like. You could certainly just use Skype for a videoconference, but the ability to move around and "establish a presence," to quote iRobot’s website, can immediately change the dynamic of a meeting. Imagine you manage several employees in a second office cities away from you. You can remotely wander around the office, keeping an eye on things and being generally available for questions, potentially making working remotely much more efficient.

So, the big question: how much does this baby cost? Well, you can rent one for $2,500 a month, or simply buy one straight up for $69,500. Is having a presence in the office worth that much? Probably not to most folks, but this is the first commercially available robot of its kind. Presumably, prices will go down as the market fills with them.

Check out the promo video below.

iRobot, via EnGadget

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