Double Robotics takes iPad-powered telepresence for a spin

February 2, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Double Robotics has developed a rolling motorized robot and accompanying software that allows you to interact in spaces hundreds of miles away through an iPad interface. The device includes a cradle for a 2nd-generation or later iPad attached to a telescoping neck. The tablet acts as a telepresence camera and display screen.

The robot is controlled by a second iPad over Wi-Fi or LTE wireless networks. Sunnyvale, Calif-based Double Robotics is showing off its designs and answering questions at the 2013 Macworld/iWorld event in San Francisco this week.

The "Double" as it's called, has been in development for two years. Now the company says it will be ready to ship its first batch of orders to early adopters later this month. The robot’s $2,000 price tag does not include the iPad.

“We’re getting a lot of calls about this from manufacturing companies and healthcare companies,” Double Robotics Jay Liew told TabTimes. “Managers say they want to use it for keeping tabs on the shop floor or monitoring offices while they are out of town.“

Last September, Double Robotics said it already had $1.2 million (600 units) in pre-orders from 44 countries around the world. Customers include 24 universities, as well as 17 Fortune 500 companies.

New direction in telepresence?

While controlling a robot from a tablet screen has been offered for awhile by a number of companies, a telepresence robot with an iPad interface that is controlled by an iPad is quite novel.

The robotic-influenced telepresence landscape of the last five years includes AnyBots QB, RoboDynamics TiLR, Gostai Jazz Connect, Mataro's Mantaro Bot, and VGo. While all of the telepresence robots on the market have cameras and the ability to see the user's expressions, none were designed with a tablet at its core in mind.

Double Robotics’ next step is to further develop the software for more interactivity between the iPad screen and those at the remote location, Liew said. While the robot allows for video and voice, the software could include document sharing, image manipulation, or other collaboration.

Other use cases for the Double Robitics vehicle include schools, retail shops and even as a remote presence in museums, said Liew.

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