One of the questions I was asked while Beaming at the recent RoboBusiness conference, was just how many consumer applications for telepresence there were. While most systems are primarily enterprise solutions and cost upwards of $10,000, there are a few like the Double, Swivl, or Kubi, which are a little more down to earth for the average user. One area I had heard about, but never fully covered was applications for pets. Most workplaces don’t have a pet friendly policy, so for those pet owners that feel that sense of guilt or separation anxiety towards leaving their pet home alone all day, telepresence to the rescue.
Do you get tired of watching kitten videos online? Maybe looking for some interaction? That’s where iPet Companion comes in. The iPet, allows users to play and interact with animals available for adoption at a few shelters around the US. The interaction seems to be beneficial at increasing the adoption rates and donations to the shelter. Originally designed and developed by Reach-In, they created a platform over which users can interact. Of course you aren’t limited to just playing with animals. If you have an event or a project you want to share with the world? Reach-In will allow you to control a camera, blow bubbles or cue the disco ball at a relatives wedding. Perhaps you’re teaching a class and need access to special lab equipment. You now have the ability to perform experiments in the the thermal mannequin laboratory. Looks like the Double has already done a telepresence session in a wind tunnel.
If you have your own pet, then there is the robot surrogate for the technology gifted. Jordan Correa is a developer with Microsoft in their Robotics division. Uncomfortable with not being able to spend time at home with Darwin, his dog, you can probably guess what any humane developer would do and created the DarwinBot. Using a Kinect camera and a Parallax microcontroller, Jordan can throw a ball, give a treat, and check on Darwin during the day.
This isn’t actually a product on the market, but I’m sure one is not far away. We’ll be sure to mention it if we see something on Kickstarter or Indie Gogo.
And if your pet is longing for physical touch, you could connect a Wii remote to a humanoid robot like the NAO and have a robot avatar, though you’ll have to figure out to dispense treats without allowing your pet to get them first.