A while ago I was looking into virtual presence with small robots. The only two serious options I found were Rovio and Spykee, two robots equipped with webcams that one can control/move through a web interface, and that have a microphone and speakers to talk to people. The good points is that they’re pretty cheap now. But they have very big shortcomings:
- Rovio can’t get away from its base more than a few meters, or you need to buy extra beacons (come on, do you guys know about this thing called WiFi?).
- Spykee comes in so many pieces in its box that you probably need half a day to assemble it. Which I guess makes sense if the primary users are kids who want a toy, as the robot’s look seem to suggest.
- Rovio’s webcam can look at the floor, even lower, or the ceiling (three discrete positions).
With all the hype about working from home or from remote places it seems like there’s a growing market for this in companies; how come we don’t see more of those little gizmos? I wonder if I missed an obvious choice. But if your company makes one of these that I can seriously use as my “virtual presence” and it costs under $300-400, I’m in. Bonus points for an open application programming interface so that anyone can create clever plugins for it.