Segway Meets iPad In Crazy Telepresence Robot
September 21, 2012 by Dave Haynes
The tech blog The Verge has an interesting post and video up about a new project that is one of those “What would happen …?” ideas, in this case blending an iPad with the Segway concept. They ended up with a robot that would in theory be used to attend meetings anywhere, without the need for a fixed telepresence set-up.
The idea here is that this thing, on its self-balancing wheels, could roll around an office or plant and meet with people while the controller sat at home eating Cheez Doodles and slowly disappearing inside a cloud of orange powder.
Talking with tech investors recently, The Verge has heard the same thing again and again: hardware startups are hot right now. You only need to look at the most recent graduating class from the prestigious Y-Combinator program, which featured a record six companies focused on hardware instead of apps or the web.
One of those graduates was Double Robotics, maker of an iPad-powered telepresence device. The company announced today it has raised $250,000 from Grishin Robotics, an investment firm from created by Dmiitry Grishin, the Russian billionaire who founded his nation’s biggest email company, Mail.ru. “Grishin was a perfect investor because they have the same mission as us,” said Double Robotics founder David Cann. “We believe that robotics technology has reached a tipping point where it’s possible to bring highly functional devices to the mass market at a reasonable price. It’s a massive opportunity.”
So far Double Robotics has sold more than $1.2 million of its telepresence devices, the Double, and is currently receiving about $100,000 in new orders each week. The device uses a pair of iPads: one sits in the self-balancing base, the other serves as a remote control. Double Robotics’ app will let you control the robot — rolling it about and adjusting its height — while the iPads’ front-facing cameras stream everything the robot sees, and allow you to interact with passersby. The new funding will allow the company to meet the increasing demand and expand its team. “We just hired our first two employees this week,” says Cann. “It’s been tough to keep up.”
The units cost $1,999, marked down by $500 from the earlier price.
My simpleton math works out that the company is selling about 50 a week, which is not all that much in most respects, but that means hundreds of companies are dropping money on them. I really don’t see this a genuine workplace toolk, but as a novelty, it would definitely attract attention. And abuse.
The last couple of times I was at CETW I remember some company with a rolling robot thing going around the floor, and I was just waiting for someone to have a little fun with it.
You could see how on a car dealer floor or other types of showrooms how someone might use this for the surprise factor.
Oh, I could attend trade shows this way and save my back and feet (and liver).