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Robotics

Robotic Presence For a Telecommuter 186

Posted by kdawson
from the spooky-action-at-a-distance dept.
McGregorMortis writes "Ivan lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and telecommutes to work in Waterloo, Ontario. But in meetings, speaker-phones suck: can't hear everybody, can't move around, no visual contact. So Ivan made an IvanAnywhere robot to give him a physical presence in the office. If Ivan wants to talk to a coworker, he just steers radio-controlled IvanAnywhere into that person's office for a chat."
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Robotic Presence For a Telecommuter

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  • Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Svw (1107541) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:22AM (#20476493)
    This is awesome, the possibilities that could open up for telecommuters is incredible. I can see a feasible market for this where telecommuters are assigned a robot as their virtual presence at work so that they feel more a part of the company than an outsourced employee.
    • To hang a sign under the screen with an arrow pointing up and the word "nerd" on it would be really high...
    • by Pig Hogger (10379)

      This is awesome, the possibilities that could open up for telecommuters is incredible. I can see a feasible market for this where telecommuters are assigned a robot as their virtual presence at work so that they feel more a part of the company than an outsourced employee.

      Yes, and this would also maximize the synergy attainable by duplicating the essence of the human-to-human interaction that is achieved through the actual presence of the employees on the company premises, thus optimizing the efficiency

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:23AM (#20476497)
    The best way I've seen it done is with a big screen, it looks like the two rooms are joined in the middle when it's running.
     
    • Halo [hp.com] is a bit like that, looks pretty interesting. The company I do work for is going to set up a few of these in their offices around the world.
  • "Meanwhile, other telecommuting employees at iAnywhere, a subsidiary of Sybase Inc., have expressed interest in getting their own robots,"

    Can't they share? Wouldn't that be easier than having those things crashing into each other all the time?

    I like the 'robot' anyway, sounds like a good solution.

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:52AM (#20476655) Journal
      If everyone is going to have one of those robots, why not have virtual robots? In other words, an avatar in a virtual environment. That's precicely what I am involved in at the moment; we're experimenting with virtual conferences in (please don't laugh) Second Life. Our initial take on it is that virtual meetings are not as good as actually being there, but they are a damn sight better than teleconferencing (which sits way down on the list somewhere between getting a root canal treatment, and dropping a kitchen knife on your bare foot pointy side down). They also give much more of a sense of "presence" than videoconferencing. Plus, they allow for teambuilding events as well.

      Sadly my suggestion for renting a virtual meeting room in Sauron's tower (in Lord of the Rings Online) was voted down. Oh well...
      • If everyone is going to have one of those robots, why not have virtual robots? In other words, an avatar in a virtual environment. That's precicely what I am involved in at the moment; we're experimenting with virtual conferences in (please don't laugh) Second Life. Our initial take on it is that virtual meetings are not as good as actually being there, but they are a damn sight better than teleconferencing (which sits way down on the list somewhere between getting a root canal treatment, and dropping a kitchen knife on your bare foot pointy side down). They also give much more of a sense of "presence" than videoconferencing. Plus, they allow for teambuilding events as well.

        I'm not sure if I'm mature enough to handle that sort of thing. The moment the marketing people joined the room, I think I'd go Leroy Jenkins on their asses.

      • by glwtta (532858)
        virtual conferences in (please don't laugh) Second Life.

        I'm sorry, but it's just not possible to accommodate your request there.
    • by toQDuj (806112)
      And it'll create peace in the office. No physical fights possible.

      On the other hand... robot wars...

      B.
  • Otherwise I could do with one of these for my office. I'd also be able to spot when they're stealing the network cables from under my desk! Every time I go in these days I have to hunt one down.

    • by DingerX (847589)
      Nice idea in theory. In practice, the first network cable they go for is the one coming out of your ass.

      "Looks like somebody gets a snow day"
  • by AxminsterLeuven (963108) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:47AM (#20476629)
    1 - Steer it around the office all day long, shouting "Kill all humans! Kill all humans!"
    Anyone else some suggestions?
  • by rickkas7 (983760) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @05:51AM (#20476647)
    Great idea! It seems to me that the iRobot Create [irobot.com] would be a good base for making something like this. It has all of the sensors for stopping when running into things and not falling down stairs. It might even still have the sensors and logic to find its home charging base by itself, eliminating the need to have people in the office remember to charge it nightly.

    There's even the PackBot model for dealing with people who have really, really messy offices, but that's probably out of my price range.

    • Better yet: use an iRobot Roomba for your platform, and you'll clean the office as you go along!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by scaz (182686)
      Actually, iRobot produced a robot called the iRobot-LE which later became a commercial product called the CoWorker that was designed specifically for telepresence applications. They couldn't find a market for it and eventually discontinued production. (You can see images of both here: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring05/Rodriguez /coworker2.htm [ufl.edu]here )
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      Actually a friend of mine did it years ago already. He lived in Benton Harbor, MI. so when heathkit kicked the bucket he was able to purchase enough surplus parts to build 3 Hero2000 robots. He used them at work, well more as telepresence robots... he did not have the logic boards so we used old mini formfactor Pentium 233 processor boards. using parallel ports we were ableto control the robot's functions. a second parallel port used a B&W logictech Quickcam and we had several IR led's around the q
      • Sounds like the folks at the headend were quite the bunch of jokers.

        Actually, I've always figured that any telepresense robot I'd care to use would HAVE TO HAVE some form of manipulator arm. It wouldn't need too much freedom of movement - just enough to allow me to give any system in the computer room the old "single finger salute".

        Of course, put a proper arm on there, and you can plug and unplug stuff. mmmm remote BOFH ... I love it!
    • by reed (19777)
      Or use this: http://www.mobilerobots.com/PatrolBot.html [mobilerobots.com] or this: http://www.activrobots.com/ROBOTS/peoplebot.html [activrobots.com]

      (disclaimer: I work for the company that makes those.)
    • by devilspgd (652955) *
      Damn the PackBot looks pretty sweet. I could use one of those for my virtual presence...
  • Big deal (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What's the point of a robot if it doesn't have some kind of weapon? Come back when it can electrocute people from 50 metres.
  • Many of my co-workers leave a jacket on their chair back, which appears sufficient for most purposes.

    Many leave them there overnight.

    In the case of at least one chair-with-a-jacket I suspect the occupant left the companies employ quite some time ago, but no one has yet noticed.
    • by deniable (76198)
      We had one that left his lunch in the fridge. Took at least six months to figure it out. They made a fridge retention policy after that.
  • When one is designed with a 'glove slap' feature so I can really interact with folks without repercussions.
  • I think he's been out the office too long and gone a bit umm strange. Seriously, anyone that thinks this is a smart move is seriously veering towards 'mad as a bag of mad things' territory.
  • Very kewl but last year I wrote the control software for something similar. Unfortunately the poor beastie is currently cages in a museum in South Florida.
  • Visitors (Score:4, Interesting)

    by deniable (76198) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @06:33AM (#20476853)
    It could be fun to introduce him to visitors. "This is Ivan."

    What does the robot do when Ivan goes to the toilet? Does it hang out in the mens room? Actually, I've had meetings in there. They're short and don't involve a lot of paperwork. And no bloody Powerpoint.
    • Re:Visitors (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @06:37AM (#20476869)
      Does it hang out in the mens room? Actually, I've had meetings in there. They're short and don't involve a lot of paperwork. And no bloody Powerpoint.

      Well maybe, but next time, please lock the door before you begin your "meeting". And perhaps you could use a bit more "paperwork" to clean up afterwards. The rest of us don't want to think about your "Powerpoint", bloody or otherwise...
    • I'd hate to see what they use as a pointer in the mens room if someone did have a powerpoint presentation......
    • Actually, I've had meetings in there.
      So has Mr Craig. But for some strange reason, police (uptight bastards!) don't share his enthusiasm for these short-and-to-the-point meetings.
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      And no bloody Powerpoint.

      Wow meetings must get violent where you work. I never seen a powerpoint meeting get tot he point where it got bloody. hurt feelings when everyone laughs at a stupid idea, sure. but never to the point where we started pounding on each other until blood got on the screen.
    • by Pig Hogger (10379)

      What does the robot do when Ivan goes to the toilet? Does it hang out in the mens room? Actually, I've had meetings in there. They're short and don't involve a lot of paperwork. And no bloody Powerpoint.
      As long as you don't tap-dance in the stalls...
    • I have have had clueless coworkers try to have a code conversation while I was in the stall, and I told them to STFU! If you can't have a private moment sitting in your own stink, what do you have?
  • Bowman, eh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @07:16AM (#20477071)
    Unfortunate choice of last name. Eventually he's going to ask the robot to do something, at it will respond with "I'm sorry Ivan, I afraid I can't do that."
  • by tsa (15680) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @07:17AM (#20477081) Homepage
    Lugging your body around is sooo 2006!
    • by devilspgd (652955) *

      Lugging your body around is sooo 2006!
      You know, that's not a bad idea... Could use one of these even when I'm working at the office...
  • by wikinerd (809585) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @07:44AM (#20477219) Journal

    A robot with a screen and speakers is not very different than a real human (you can guess how I see humans and how much I value social contact, can't you?) and in fact sometimes you may prefer to interact with the robot rather than the actual person (especially if your coworkers are dull). Perhaps robots like this will encourage companies to send all dull people out of office and let their robots at the office, or (preferably) send the nerds at their homes. Either way will increase productivity, as mixing nerds and dull people in the same group is not a way to work harmoniously:

    • NerdieMary: Yesterday was a very productive day for me!
    • DullieGeorge: Let me guess... you went to the stadium?
    • NerdieMary: No, I compiled the Linux kernel on my old C64 and turned it into a mail server!
    • DullieGeorge: Oh, you mean your basketball team won?
    • NerdieMary: No, no! I talk about the computers!
    • DullieGeorge: Oh nerdie nerd, you always talk about computers. Your life has become computeroonic. Every food you eat has to have the word 'computer' in its title!
    • NerdieMary: Shut up, you dullie duck! If there were no computers you wouldn't have a job in this company now!
    • DullieGeorge: But I never wanted to be a level-1 helpdesk technician. I always wanted to be... a lumberjack! Computers are so dull, dull, dull, dull, dull!
    • NerdieMary: Oh my 64bitness! You are so dull! Can't stand working with you anymore! I'll quit! I'll become a cat confuser!
    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      A robot with a screen and speakers is not very different than a real human (you can guess how I see humans and how much I value social contact, can't you?)
      If you genuinely think that a robot with a screen and speakers isn't much different from a real human, this probably says more about how much you value *sexual* contact(!)
      • this probably says more about how much you value *sexual* contact
        He is posting on /. here ya know...
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @08:03AM (#20477335) Journal
    ...maybe it's not a good job for a telecommuter.

    Telecommuting jobs work the best when you don't need to be physically colocated to be productive. If face to face (or face to robot) is really that necessary, and telephone or videocam conversations don't cut it (I'm presuming a webcam for cube-to-remote-cube talking to add those all important hand gestures), you should be actually going to work rather than staying at home.

    Oh, and for those who might point out that Halifax is too far from Ontario, might I suggest either (a) finding a new home closer to your job or (b) finding a new job closer to your home. If those are impossible, perhaps (c) finding a new line of work should be a consideration. Remember, there's no god-given right to work in your preferred field, where you want to live, at a compensation rate you find appealing. Life is, as your parents told you many times, not fair.

    (FWIW, I chose "where to live" and "money that is accpetable" over "ideal career" and I'm darned happy with it. Low crime, 1 mile commute, good schools, low cost of living and beautiful scenery seemed a good trade for designing buildings instead of space experiments.)
    • I did quite the oposite, moving to a relatively distant big city to find a job in my field.
      Working on high frequency analog electronics would make telecommuting rather difficult, but I really love that job, partly because it doesn't involve much face-to-face.
    • by vertinox (846076)
      (I'm presuming a webcam for cube-to-remote-cube talking to add those all important hand gestures)

      I'm not sure about you, but those hand gestures are usually the cause of the office drama and pink slips.

      And sometimes the result of said drama and pink slips...
  • According to the article [therecord.com], the idea originated not from the telecommuter but from his boss, Glenn Paulley [uwaterloo.ca], who has a PhD in CS (his dissertation was on query optimisation). However, the article suggests that the idea was further refined by another employee, Ian McHardy, who I think is a database programmer. The article says that Dr Paullie (the boss) thought of installing a webcam under a blimp after seeing a TV ad for a remote control toy blimp, and McHardy (the other employee) suggested using a robot i
  • I can't believe that after all these comments not a single person has yet pointed out: The entire concept is a dupe. The brilliant mid-90s TV show, News Radio had an episode where robotic Jimmy did EXACTLY this. Jimmy James played by Stephen Root who played the fiery Milton in a movie that most of you have seen...

    Dupes of older stories is one thing.

    Dupes of mid-90s sit-coms is something else entirely...
  • The screen is situated quite awkwardly though, it being at crotch height.

    I wouldn't like to ahve someone talk to my private parts, and I guess now he can be sued by women for constantly staring at their sexually reproductive organs.

    B.
  • A building empty of humans, yet full of robots. How surreal would it be to observe a meeting of 5 or 10 robots in a room, and not one human. Though maybe one janitor in the building to plug everyone in at night. Everybody at home. Sign me up!
  • This was one of the young adult science books of the 50's. The premise is you've got this young kid who is good with science and his mom becomes the housekeeper for your sterotypical 1950's science genius who invents all sorts of crap. One of the stories was about an invisibility suit. I wondered how they'd try to BS around it. Turns out there was never an invisibility suit but a set of VR goggles and control gloves that allows you to pilot a robotic dragonfly. It's so small it can easily be overlooked, thu
  • I was hoping for a better name than IvanAnywhere, but IvanGoAnywhere would be more marketable.
  • Does it come with an "Eviscerate" command as well? There would be a high demand for pwning annoying coworkers via remote control.
  • I think the robot should have a desk which is a scale model of the remote user's actual desk at home. And maybe a little box with a door that can be closed to represent being n/a. (with a moon carved into the door)
  • ... Gort.

    Only responds to the command, "Barada nikto!"

  • Wouldn't just be easier to send a life size cardboard cutout of yourself to the office?
  • If an office had a few "guest" telepresence droids available, instead of hopping on a plane you could just move your connection to an available droid. As fast as teleportation, and two or three visits would pay for the unit in airline and hotel cost avoidance. It would have met the requirements of better than 90% of the times I've had to travel for business. Put a couple of waldoes [wikipedia.org] on it, and we're approaching 99%.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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