iRobot, the company that makes the popular line of automated robot home vacuums, is going after the enterprise with the help of Apple’s iPad and Cisco.
The company’s new Ava 500 is a video collaboration system that can be controlled from an iPad and is now being sold via select Cisco resellers.
Offering so-called telepresence, the idea behind the Ava 500 robot is that it can move throughout the halls of a building while providing video communications to remote users.
The most basic use case is as an extension of the standard video call or teleconference session without the limitation of being in one room or offering a single or limited number of views.
Using an iPad, a remote user can schedule and control the Ava 500, select a destination by tapping a location on a map or choose a location or employee name. When it’s time for the meeting, the robot autonomously navigates its way to the desired location and initiates the call using a Cisco TelePresence EX60.
iRobotics points out that because the Ava 500 is autonomous and maps its own environment, there is no need, as there is with other telepresence robots, to “drive” it or to understand the location's layout.
“Ava 500 intelligently and safely self-navigates busy, real-world enterprise environments without bumping into people or objects,” the company says. “When desired, manual operations to rotate the robot, move the telepresence system up-and-down, and tilt the camera are also provided for more refined control of the robot …. At the end of the meeting, the Ava 500 simply disconnects and automatically returns to its charging station.”
The idea is that the self-driven robot allows people to use video to see and be seen while collaborating in environments that would otherwise be difficult or impossible from afar, including hallways and manufacturing floors.
Video collaboration anywhere
In addition to supporting sales via its resellers, the Ava 500 includes Cisco's telepresence software and the company’s enterprise grade security and scalability.
"For truly amazing things to happen, video needs to be available everywhere—on every pane of glass, in every meeting space, and in all the spaces in between,” said Rowan Trollope, senior VP and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group.
Reseller and integrator Yorktel says its VideoCloud software makes the Ava 500 available for multipoint conferencing so that, for example, several scientists can collaborate with colleagues during an experiment or a business executive can easily bring other team members into a meeting even if they're using a variety of devices and operating systems, to remotely attend a huddle room or other location.
Robot-enabled telepresence on a global scale
Leading up to its release this week, the product has gone through beta testing with corporate customers. One of those, healthcare giant Bayer, said it’s been pleased with the results so far.
"As a large company with facilities across the globe, technologies like Ava 500 offer several advantages to our business in terms of cost savings and productivity," said Dr. Michael Graefenstedt, VP BU Polyurethanes and Head of Commercial Business Development EMEA/LA at Bayer. "From my office in Germany, I was able to use Ava 500 to manage and collaborate with U.S. colleagues in a way that would have necessitated expensive travel otherwise.
“Having experienced a physical presence in the meeting and the advantage of ‘walking around’ with colleagues at their offices, I believe this technology holds great promise for how business will be conducted on a global scale moving forward."
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