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iRobot, Cisco Create Telepresence Robot

In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” a character, terrified that an accident might damage his valuable brain, sequesters himself in a room and sends out a “”Mobile Virtual Presence Device” to face his daily tasks and dangers. A remote-controlled robot with a video-chat broadcasting monitor for a head, the device is played for laughs in the TV show — but in the enterprise, Cisco thinks the technology could boost productivity, especially in remote management situations.

On Monday, the San Jose-based company and robotics vendor iRobot announced the Ava 500, a “video collaboration robot” infused with Cisco’s TelePresence EX60 personal video software. Able to autonomously navigate environments, the device vaguely resembles a cylinder on wheels, with a monitor and camera mounted on top to allow on-site workers to talk face-to-face with remote collaborators.

Given that webcams are already used in remote meetings, and mobile video chats are now common due to smartphones and tablets, a robot might seem excessive. But Angie Mistretta, Cisco’s director of telepresence solutions marketing, said current equipment simply isn’t enough in some cases.

In an interview, she said that mobile devices are great for quick, ad-hoc video sessions but impractical when it comes to sustained meetings or remote facility tours. Someone remotely watching such a tour would be subjected to “images like The Blair Witch Project, really shaky” if a handheld tablet were used to broadcast the video, she said. Desktops are tethered to a static point of view, which constrains their use.

Network Computing

Categories: General.

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