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Suitable Technology's Telepresence Robot Lets You Roll Remotely 51

Posted by timothy
from the when-a-roomba-loves-an-lcd-very-very-much dept.
DeviceGuru writes "Suitable Technologies today unveiled a telepresence robot based on technology from Willow Garage, a robotics research lab. Beam (as in 'Beam me up, Scotty' — no, really!) implements a video chat function on a computer you can remotely drive around via Internet-based control. Beam, which stands 62 inches tall and weighs 95 pounds, adheres to four operational imperatives, which are intended to mimic human interaction and behavior: reciprocity of vision (if I see you, you must see me); ensuring private communication (no recordings of what goes on); transparency of technology (keeping the interaction natural); and respect social norms (don't push or shove Beam!). But the big question is: Does Beam also adhere to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics? Let's hope so!"
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Suitable Technology's Telepresence Robot Lets You Roll Remotely

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  • by Zadaz (950521) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @06:29PM (#41470455)

    In fact is says right on the announcement page [willowgarage.com] that "Beam is no robot". So no need to be 3 laws compliant.

    I'm still looking for a use case for telepresence robots. It needs to be a situation where all of these things apply:

    1) I need to "freely" move around where I'm not. There are lots of situations where I would want this. However the situational awareness of these things is very poor. I drove one around and ended up rolling around the Y-Combinator offices without knowing it. For a tour of a place, office, factory, photos and handheld video would be preferable. (It's very difficult to "look around" with these thing. turning is slow.)

    2) I don't need to touch anything. This is sort of the breaker. If I don't need to touch anything, why not just teleconference? Yeah, teleconferences kind of stink, but they do work. (And I can screw off during the parts that don't concern me. Try doing that in person!) If I actually need to do things then I need to be there in person with my arms and hands and fingers.

    3) Movement is completely unrestricted where I need to be. Doors are all automatic. No stairs. No elevators.

    4) Someone has the money to spend on these. They're expensive. People tend to abuse them, which makes them a maintenance problem.

    5) No one cares about the Uncanny Valley. These things are deep in it and people react not positively to them. People hit the Emergency stop button to make the telepresence go away, people sit their drinks on them. Or push them around, pick them up. Drop them. Or just ignore them. People don't react to them like they're people. And there's really no way in the near future to get them out of this valley.

    The closest I get for this is a factory tour in China. (For people who live a long distance from China.) But frankly if I need to take a factory tour I have the money to do it, and it would be worth my time to fly there and do it in person.

    For anything else it seems like "Skype on a stick" is more than good enough. Does anyone have a legitimate (ie: not "it's cool!") use case for telepresence bots like this?

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