Is 2014 the year Telepresence goes from big to huge?

Anybots robot facing the camera with its blue eyes glowing

2013 Was a great year for advancements in robotics.  The culmination of which ended in style with the DARPA Robotics Challenge trials.  Unlike the 2005 DARPA Autonomous Vehicle challenge which resulted in vehicles like the Google car, don’t expect to see C3-PO anytime soon.  Service robots for commercial use still have some serious obstacles to overcome.  Opening doors and turning knobs (in a timely manner) still requires a lot of planning to complete, but with some hard work and lots of machine learning it will happen.  

2013 also wrapped up with not one but two mentions in their Best of What’s New.  The BeamPro from Suitable Technologies and the RP Vita by In-Touch Health and iRobot.  At this year’s CES, Telepresence had a much larger presence than last year.  Not only did Suitable ship about 50 BEAMs, you had newcomers like the Synergy Swan,  along with veterans like MantaroBot and iRobot.

Part of the fuel for this explosion in robotics is the repurposing of tablets and cell phones.  Many of the telepresence robots reviewed here can almost be seen as accessories to these devices.  With so much processing power in these devices now, they’re able to take on more and more tasks.  What once took several laptops computers ten years ago, can be done with a top of the line tablet today.  As Moore’s law trudges on, this should only get more impressive.   

While the headlines this past week all seemed to read about wearable technology, one reporter I overheard at CES claims that “fashion will still preempt any gains in technology.”  It still has to look like something you would wear rather than a gimmick just because you can do it.  Otherwise, I’m guessing  that supersized Dick Tracy radio watch would have been a huge success long before cell phones.  But hey, perhaps a robot wouldn’t mind wearing one?




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