Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Gangway, Humans!"

Perhaps because I travel a fair bit, my favorite story of the day was futurist Bryan Alexander's account of "attending" an education conference from the comfort of his Vermont home using a remote-controlled "Doppelbot."

"It’s an iPad on a stick, mounted on rollers," Alexander said in the first of two blog posts describing his experience with the telepresence robot sold by Double Robotics. Yours for the low price of $2,499!

Pictures like the one in the tweet above show Alexander conversing and posing with other attendees at this week's Educause Learning Initiative meeting in New Orleans. The conference badge around his robotic neck was a nice touch.

"I stood in line for the buffet, then shouted 'gangway humans!' when rolling at top speed.  I toasted drinkers repeatedly."

In a second post, Alexander provided a more detailed review of his teletrip -- summing up the good (playfulness and interaction), the challenges (bandwidth dependencies, speaker volume) and the tradeoffs (increased speed and less "'neck' wobbling" when he lowered his iPad face vs. the "creepiness" of sneaking up at people below eye level).

A three-minute promotional video calls the Double "the ultimate tool for telecommuting." But as someone who was frequently double-booked in meetings at my previous job, I can imagine all kinds of uses. Plus the Double would make me look a lot skinnier. Something about it really takes the pounds off.

And quick hat tip here to Lawrence Biemiller, whose story for the Chronicle of Education first alerted me to Alexander's robotic travels.


Anonymous said...

This blog post reminded me of the Big Bang Theory episode when Sheldon, in an attempt to extend his life in order to experience The Signularity, constructs a "Mobile Virtual Presence Device." Clip here.

Mark said...

That was the very same device, Patchworkjumble.

Also featured on The Colbert Report in December.

Colbert: "That's right, a mobile robot that gives telecommuters a life-like presence at the office -- as long as that office does not include stairs."