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IT Technology

Cisco and iRobot Create Sheldonbot-Like Telepresence System 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the say-hello-to-my-electronic-friend dept.
sweetpea86 writes "Cisco has teamed up with robotics firm iRobot to create their own enterprise version of the 'Sheldonbot' from US comedy series The Big Bang Theory. The robot, known as Ava 500, brings together iRobot's autonomous navigation with Cisco's TelePresence system to enable a remote worker sitting in front of a video collaboration system to meet with colleagues in an office setting or take part in a facility tour."
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Cisco and iRobot Create Sheldonbot-Like Telepresence System

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  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:14AM (#43962879)

    The robot, known as Ava 500, brings together iRobot's autonomous navigation with Cisco's TelePresence system to enable a remote worker sitting in front of a video collaboration system to meet with colleagues in an office setting or take part in a facility tour."

    You could take a facility tour or do a video conference with someone holding a smartphone for a LOT less money.

    There are excellent uses for telerobotic systems. This is not one of them. This is a solution looking for a problem.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      This is a minor annoyance affecting people with lots of money being used to justify the development of technology.

      The problems with someone carrying a smartphone are that the view will wobble, the carrier is in control of the movement, the speakerphone may not be sufficiently clear, and the phone itself is too small to be easily recognized as a person.

      Sure, a smartphone is fine for giving an ill relative a presence at a family gathering. For a multi-million-dollar contract hinging on the tour of a facility,

      • by sjbe (173966)

        The problems with someone carrying a smartphone are that the view will wobble, the carrier is in control of the movement, the speakerphone may not be sufficiently clear, and the phone itself is too small to be easily recognized as a person.

        So mount it to a cart, shout instructions through it, get a better speakerphone and recognize the fact that a robot is not a person. I give facetime tours to family members all the time. It's not perfect but it's fine and having a robot would not actually make the tour better, particularly if there were stairs involved.

        For a multi-million-dollar contract hinging on the tour of a facility

        If it is a multi-million $ contract you're not going to do that through a remote robot in the real world. You are going yourself or you are sending a trusted agent on your behalf.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          So mount it to a cart, shout instructions through it, get a better speakerphone and recognize the fact that a robot is not a person. I give facetime tours to family members all the time. It's not perfect but it's fine and having a robot would not actually make the tour better, particularly if there were stairs involved.

          While it may be amusing to think that executives are willing to shout and wait for someone to follow their orders, people don't work that way. If a person (even an executive) is curious about something, they want to just go look at it, not ask somebody else to push them over toward that whatchamacallit by the thingy under the wossname.

          You are going yourself or you are sending a trusted agent on your behalf.

          Eventually, yeah... but the first few facility tours don't need to actually involve a physical presence. It's a sniff test to make sure the outfit meets the unwritten require

          • by sjbe (173966)

            While it may be amusing to think that executives are willing to shout and wait for someone to follow their orders, people don't work that way.

            Yeah, actually they do. And it doesn't have to be executives doing the shouting either. If you are doing a teleconference where a walkabout is necessary, it's not remotely difficult to get someone to point a camera at the things someone at the other end of the cable wants to look at. I'd be happy to tote around a camera to show off my manufacturing plant to someone remotely should the need ever arise. Not a big deal at all.

            Eventually, yeah... but the first few facility tours don't need to actually involve a physical presence.

            Do you have the foggiest idea how many facility tours you would have to do to jus

            • by Sarten-X (1102295)

              Do you have the foggiest idea how many facility tours you would have to do to justify one of these things even if the technology provided some advantage?

              If the tour makes a good enough impression to land an extra big contract, one.

              (and it doesn't provide any advantage)

              I work at a financial services firm whose clients are the ones making those multi-million-dollar deals. Yes, they care about doing things themselves, having those little annoyances stripped away, and just getting business done without wasting time giving trivial orders. There are a few old rich folks who want others to do the work for them, but mostly the people who are still making big deals want to be a part of those deals, not

              • by sjbe (173966)

                If the tour makes a good enough impression to land an extra big contract, one.

                Not a marketing guy are you? If you want to impress someone this is a really poor way to do it. If I'm the one considering spending millions of dollars my very first question is going to be, "why are you spending tens of thousands of dollars on a frivolous robot?" With the implication that if you are willing to waste money on this, what else are you willing to waste money on?

                I work at a financial services firm whose clients are the ones making those multi-million-dollar deals. Yes, they care about doing things themselves, having those little annoyances stripped away, and just getting business done without wasting time giving trivial orders. There are a few old rich folks who want others to do the work for them, but mostly the people who are still making big deals want to be a part of those deals, not be led around on a leash.

                Which is why they put their own eyes on what they are investing in. I think you are assuming things you have no direct experience

    • by r0kk3rz (825106)

      You could take a facility tour or do a video conference with someone holding a smartphone for a LOT less money.

      There are excellent uses for telerobotic systems. This is not one of them. This is a solution looking for a problem.

      You're missing the point, a person holding a smartphone controls what the viewer sees, a robotic system gives the viewer control of what they see which adds to the immersion.

      Done right the experience from the viewer should be akin to a first person videogame, and combined with the likes of the Occulus Rift headset it could be a game changer.

  • Ahh... I'm not sure I see the benefit, physical interactivity is still at a minimum, and cost would be higher. What will this do for a meeting that a regular video conference can't? Shake hands -? A tour can be done with a wireless webcam.
  • by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:18AM (#43962937) Journal

    It needs a robot arm. So that I can buy my Mountain Dew and Hot Pockets at the grocery store without ever leaving my house.

    • It needs a robot arm. So that I can buy my Mountain Dew and Hot Pockets at the grocery store without ever leaving my house.

      There is a neat invention for that that already exists. It's called a friend. Try one out sometime.

      (I kid, I kid...)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I had trouble with the whole friend thing, because I didn't see where I could buy one online from my basement. However, eventually I discovered the right place to purchase those services and immediately had a friend come over.

        She looked confused when I asked her to go pick me up some Mountain Dew and Cheetos down at the corner, but she came back with them. I thought 300 dollars was a little steep, but I figured that I needed to buy in bulk with this service.

        She was actually a pretty attractive friend, de

    • Peapod.com
      You're welcome.

  • Didn't Wally do this in Dilbert a while back?

    Sounds like an idea which most people will wonder why they're doing it.

    • Wasn't this in demolition man? I vaguely recall wesley snipes destroying a bunch of robots with human faces having a meeting.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sheldonbot is a Texai Remote Presence System from Willow Garage [willowgarage.com], so recreating Sheldonbot is just copying some other company's product.

  • I have a Scooba (Roomba for mopping). If its ability to navigate is an example of the "Autonomous Navigation" described in the summary...well, it's not particularly reassuring about the future of telepresence.
    • Don't you walk in a random until you meet a wall or object at your work? I must be doing something wrong.
  • ... that way I can hire somebody from India to clean my house, mow the yard, do dishes, and laundry remotely over the internet. At an estimated 70K for this one, I don't think that's going to work out for me anytime soon.

  • ...if I used one at work, no one would notice (until something broke).

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      I'm not buying this until it has a TASER available. Or at least a pointy stick.
      • by arfonrg (81735)

        For $99.99 you can have a LASER attached to it's head...

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          For $99.99 you can have a LASER attached to it's head...

          And for about $2 you can duck tape a pointy stick to it.

          • And for about $2 you can duck tape a pointy stick to it.

            If you are using $2 worth of duct tape you are using way too much, you don't need the whole roll.

            • by gstoddart (321705)

              I was counting the pointy stick as most of that cost. ;-)

              But you definitely want your pointy stick to be solidly attached -- that way you can have telepresence robot jousting on Fridays.

              But, really, anybody with one of these better be saying "exterminate! exterminate!" at every possible opportunity, or they've missed the point.

            • He said duck tape. It's rather more expensive than duct tape, since they have to catch and render the ducks.
              • by gstoddart (321705)

                Except, the original term was "duck tape" and not "duct tape" -- because it served as waterproofing for ammunition boxes and had nothing to do with ductwork.

                It's actually not a very good use on ducts, since it doesn't do the right things -- in some places, it's against code to use it for ducts.

                If you have duck tape on your ducts, whoever put it there was lazy (or cheap).

                • My 5th grade teacher was vehemently against some of the language of the Midwestern kids that came thru his classroom. Thanks to him I stopped saying ain't, warsh, 'at instead of that, 's when it wasn't plural...etc. "Duct" tape not "duck" tape was one of his peeves. Years later when I heard what you said above...I so wanted to track him down and tell him. But I have promised not to be that kind of an asshole anymore. One day at a time.
          • by arfonrg (81735)

            A pointy stick is so 20,000 BC

  • If you can't find a use for this, I suggest you try a bit harder. In my humble opinion, these are awesome. But you probably want one that you can develop for yourself, and add external devices such as cameras or other sensors. Here's one example of a mobile video conference unit that has found good use in health care. http://www.giraff.org/?lang=en [giraff.org]
  • They're billing this as a shared resource. You're still going to need someone to change the t-shirt.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:44AM (#43963273) Homepage

    There have been quite a few of these things. MantaRobot [mantarobot.com], Vgo [vgocom.com], Anybot [anybots.com], and Texai/Suitable [suitabletech.com], all have commercial, mobile, telepresence robots available now. They all shove a videophone in someone's face.

    Vgo probably has the best use case. They sell it to medical facilities, so doctors don't have to move around as much. This is an indication of the market. Telepresence only works if the person operating the device is someone the listeners have to suck up to.

  • This would be a great tool. When I worked onsite and needed a key person's time, I followed the time honored tradition of camping out in their cube until my questions were answered. Working offsite I just get their voice mail. If I could jump into one of these, I could corner people the same way.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday June 10, 2013 @11:51AM (#43963371) Homepage
    1. immediately proceed to the bathroom, become known as "that bathroom robot that slowly sings 'bad romance' by lady gaga all day long"
    2. have conversation with boss in which you slowly inch further away from her until you're nearly down the hallway.
    3. only one speed: bat-out-of-hell fast. insist a racing stripe, cubicle nametag change to 'the crimson terror'
    4. stand near vending machines, stare forcefully into coworkers eyes.
    5. "Leave" work at the end of the day, exit parking lot, local intersection, merge onto freeway.
    4. attend meetings, take your place at the table, begin slowly rotating around and around. do not stop until the meeting ends.
    3. telepresence camera can and will be pointed at anything. this becomes a known fact as your attendance on tuedays is now referred to as 'that electric bellybutton on wheels'
    2. once per day, fly out the door, race through the parking lot and directly into the quarter panel of the most expensive car you find. insist this is a bug.
    1. show up to work, insist the use of the telepresence robot during all interaction. refuse any requests that do not utilize it.
    • attend meetings, take your place at the table, begin slowly rotating around and around. do not stop until the meeting ends.

      This alone justifies the entire research budget!

  • They made a movie [imdb.com] about this...
  • Marissa needs to get one of these for checking up on all those staff that aren't allowed telework.
  • This is great, it will be good for about 3 months then the battery won't hold a charge. :-) Just like my two useless Roombas.
    • by Sperbels (1008585)

      This is great, it will be good for about 3 months then the battery won't hold a charge. :-) Just like my two useless Roombas.

      Which brings up an interesting idea. Maybe while your telepresence CEO is moving about the office looking for slackers, a built in Roomba in the base could vacuum as he went...maybe follow the walls or shoot off at 45 degrees if he hits an obstacle.

  • Now my inner voice when reading slashdot posts is Sheldon.
  • We are getting closer to having our own Turrets from Portal?

    Because I can totally live with my own version of Sheldonbot.
  • Cisco has teamed up with robotics firm iRobot to create their own enterprise version of the 'Sheldonbot' from US comedy series The Big Bang Theory.

    Presence-bots were around long before Big Bang Theory made them hilarious. This just looks like a fancier version of the same with smoother curves and all the wires on the inside.

    • Im thinking your universe has a different Big Bang Theory than mine...
      Hilarious is a huge overkill for anything on that show.

      • Hilarious is a huge overkill for anything on that show.

        Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that you're the arbiter of what's funny and what isn't. Everybody? Did you hear? BBT's not funny any more, arkane1234 said!

        Of course, I should acknowledge the apparent irony of calling you out for this when I've previously declared it "hilarious" without a six-foot-high disclaimer that that's my personal subjective opinion. The difference, of course, is that that was a throw-away adjective casually tossed in for mild comic effect, and that I didn't post solely to prove my inherent

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