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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Telepresence robots

Telepresence robots are a new segment within mobile service robots providing solutions for advanced mobile video conferencing communication and remote navigation. The market is dominated by U.S. companies, still small and in search of viable business models.

One of the first commercially available telepresence robots was PeopleBot from MobileRobotics released in 2000 as a “Human Interface Robot” and robotic platform for applications such as business promotion, monitoring and entertainment.

InTouch Health , founded in 2002, is a world leader in Remote Presence healthcare solutions. The company offers its RP-7® Remote Presence Robotic System, a wireless, mobile robot featuring a 2-way video and audio computer system, for health care communication. Through the RP-7 healthcare professionals are enabled to consult with hospital-based patients and healthcare staff more rapidly and efficiently, thereby improving hospital throughput, physician efficiency and quality of care. The Company has over 200 RP-7 systems deployed in acute care settings that are utilized for a range of clinical applications including stroke and multidisciplinary outreach, remote critical care coverage, on-call services and rounding.

RoboDynamics released its first robotic telepresence platform MILO in October 2004. In 2008 the company introduced its new TiLR - Telepresence internet connected Low cost Robot.

Headthere is the latest provider of a new telepresence video conferencing robot, called Giraffe. The Giraffe is a mobile robot that can be moved around its location by remote control using the Internet.

Anybots has recently presented a new telepresence robot, called QA and designed to look like a human albeit on wheels. QA is a dynamically balancing humanoid robot on two wheels (Segway type), it stands 5 feet tall and has two 5-megapixel color cameras with ir illuminator situated on the neck and a 7 inch color LCD in its chest.

French Robosoft recently unveiled Robolab 10, a new telepresence robot to provide daily-life services to people staying at home, the disabled and the elderly.

French Meccano released its first Internet-controlled telepresence robot Spykee in 2007. Spykee is a mobile robot that can be controlled remotely as "video surveillance” and can also be used as a VOIP phone

U.S. iRobot, the market leader in mobile cleaning robots, who has sold 2.5 million Roombas — since the line was launched in 2002, released its first telepresence robot ConnectR in 2007. But it was recently terminated after one year trial. It was found that the robot was not yet practical enough to meet user expectations. iRobot announced it will continue its work on developing practical virtual visiting robots but the company has no timetable as to when a virtual visiting robot will be available for purchase.

Robot toy company WowWee released its first telepresence robot Rovio in early 2008. The robot represents a complete mobile telepresence pack including camera, microphone, and speaker. It’s WiFi enabled and provides audio and video streams via a web interface it serves up over the Internet. Rovio can be controlled over the internet and take advantage of some advanced navigational capabilities.

Telepresence robots in Japan

Robotic telepresence for monitoring and interaction with elderly people has been introduced in Japan in 1999 by Matsushita Electrics with the Tama conversation cat robot. In 2002 the company released a Teddy bear robot that was tested at the assisted living facility Sincere Kouriren outside Osaka.

In Japan telepresence robots have been demonstrated at the World Expo 2005. One was a prototype of a recursive projection technology for mutual tele-existence called TELEsar PHONE. The system was designed for a face-to-face tele-communication via robots. The Telesar PHONE is a robotic system that assists with remote communication tele-existence technology, a type of control technology that uses a communication network to enable a person to have a real-time sensation of being at a place other than where he or she actually is. The other type was a human like robot called Repliee Q1expo, developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University. His idea is to develop robots that are as similar as possible to a living human being and that can be used as physical avatar for remote telepresence.

In July 2008 robot company tmsuk released a prototype of the telerobotic shopper at the Izutsuya department store in the city of Kitakyushu, Japan. The modified TMSUK-4 humanoid robot incorporates a variety of cellphone communications technology and was demonstrated by japanese grandmother lady unable to go shopping with her granddaughter who sent the robot in her place. Using an NTT DoCoMo video-capable cellphone, the grandmother was able to control the robot and enjoy the shopping experience through the robot’s camera eyes.

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