Imagine greeting your colleague on a Monday morning by the water cooler. You chat about the weekend before both moving into a team meeting to discuss the week ahead. Sounds like a regular day at work, only your colleague didn’t ride the train, take the elevator or walk the stairs into the office today, in fact they are 5000 miles away – they arrived to work via a telepresence robot.
Telepresence robotics is a remarkable technological development where real-time communications meets robotics. Think of it as the next evolution of video conferencing, brought to life with the human-like interactivity and mobility of robotics. Telepresence robotics is not just about connecting people and teams from afar like video calling has done. It’s about breaking down geographic barriers and placing humans in any location from anywhere in the world as if they are truly present.
How telepresence works
The anatomy of a telepresence robot is made up of two components which work together to deliver both communications and movement. A tablet computer with a forward facing camera and microphone is the hub of all communication where real-time interactive video act as the human face and voice. The tablet is then typically mounted to a gyroscope on wheels or a robotic stand controlled by the individual behind the screen that has the ability to rotate and respond to people in the room. Due to this uniquely human-like combination of communications and movement, a telepresence robot creates a dynamic physical presence in the room unlike regular video conferencing.
Telepresence robotics is transforming entire industries from healthcare to education and workforce participation. With telepresence robotics, a specialist physician can now be present in any operating theatre, your team member from the other side of the world can be physically next to you in a meeting or at your desk, and an expert academic from afar can teach and engage with students remotely.
Remote work & collaboration
Humans share information in many ways – by pointing to things around them, by scribbling on whiteboards or note pads and gesturing at one another. While this is challenging for legacy technology to handle, telepresence robots manifest this naturally human way of communicating. Double Robotics offer telepresence robots that enables users to have a physical presence when they can’t be there in person, whether at work or school. The company built the Double Robot, an ultra-slick iPad on wheels controlled via remote web interface or from any iOS device. ‘Telecommuting’ is creating a much freer market for skills and increasing access to education as barriers like geography and reduced mobility are broken down.
In healthcare, embedding telepresence robots into regular workflows is enabling life changing and cost saving efficiencies as well as inclusive and interactive personalized services. For example, a specialist can be contacted and utilised from anywhere in the world, and interact with the patient as though they were in the same room. Revolve Robotics, is paring back the technological complexities inherent in telemedicine, placing the focus squarely back on the human way of doing things. The company has developed Kubi, “a telepresence robot that combines real-time communications with powerful robotics that simplifies patient interactions of all kinds and makes video calls more engaging”. Kubi enables the user to mimic human traits like eye contact and can move freely from place to place.
Feeling the presence
Telepresence interactions are natural, embedded into workflows and used by teams in their day to day. Telepresence robots offer a way to bridge the gap between technology and humanity, with real-time video powered by WebRTC and robotics working together to bring a greater sense of personality into our world of digitized communications.
While telepresence technology has been around for some time, until now, it was only ever accessible to high-end executives used in offices or conference rooms and came with an expensive price tag. Thanks to the flexible and open technologies of today such as WebRTC and the OpenTok platform, it is now accessible to almost any office, hospital or classroom.
Learn how you can use the OpenTok Platform to power telepresence robotics today.