Described as a "semi-autonomous robotic avatar" by its creators at MIT, the MeBot is an effort to give people a face and an expressive presence in a room far, far away from them. That, and an adorable crab-like body.
While the MeBot show's the operator's face on a small screen, it goes one step further, using software that will analyze the controller's face and cause the MeBot to respond appropriately with its stubby arms and articulated neck. It looks like the MeBot can also be operated directly using a control that resembles the units arms, though they aren't designed for much more than gesturing (in other words, you wouldn't be using MeBot to do work remotely).
The end results, according to MIT, is one hell of an expressive little telepresence robot:
We conducted an experiment that evaluated how people perceived a robot-mediated operator differently when they used a static telerobot versus a physically embodied and expressive telerobot. Results showed that people felt more psychologically involved and more engaged in the interaction with their remote partners when they were embodied in a socially expressive way. People also reported much higher levels of cooperation both on their own part and their partners as well as a higher score for enjoyment in the interaction.
Check out the MeBot in action in the video below, which also gives you a good look at that control interface.