iRobot Ava 500 Telepresence Robot Could Save Time, Cut Travel Costs
NEWS ANALYSIS: New meeting robot could cut travel costs, eliminate time wasted getting to meetings and help integrate dispersed staff members, but it can't do everything.The first time I actually had to interact with a meeting robot was at a cocktail reception at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. I was sipping a glass of red wine and talking with Ethernet pioneer Bob Metcalfe at the Ethernet 40th Anniversary event in May 2013 when a robot bearing a screen with the image of a young woman glided up next to me. I was a little startled, but she seemed to fit into the conversation quickly, asked Metcalfe a couple of questions and then glided away, bumping into a chair on the way out. What interested me afterward wasn't so much that the device was navigating a little erratically, but rather how easily this robot woman fit in. Within minutes, she was part of the conversational circle and interacted just as if she'd been there in person. While it wasn't the perfect virtual experience, it worked well enough. Now, with the announcement of the Ava 500 Telepresence Robot, it would be an even more seamless experience.
What's happened is that iRobot has linked its experience with autonomous robots with Cisco's telepresence videoconference system, making a robot that can find its way around an office on its own, and interact with others as if the person who is using it were actually there. In a sense, that's because they actually are there.