Today I had the opportunity to test drive Double Robotics' new Double 2 telepresence robot. Before I describe my experience of the robot itself, I need to preface that with a word of praise for Rochelle, the Double Robotics representative, who responded quickly to my initial request for a test drive, helped me set up a mutually convenient time, and then walked me through the test while cheerfully answering my many questions.
The Double 2 may be driven from one's computer, tablet, or smart phone and relies upon a tablet to host calls on its end. I drove the robot from my PC and found the controls to be the simplest of any I've yet used. While, like other competitors' robots, you can drive the Double 2 using your keyboard's arrow keys, the only other necessary control to learn is how to adjust the robot's height (by clicking on one of two robot icons, a shorter one for the 4' height and a taller one for the 5' height). It is not possible to adjust the angle of the view upward or downward, or from one side to the other without swiveling the base. This probably won't be an issue for most users, however, and the simplicity of the controls means anyone can immediately figure out how to control the robot.
The Double 2 allows users to share screens as well as hyperlinks, take photos they can save locally, add up to five additional viewers (although only the initial user can control the robot), and keep an eye on the base of the robot via a small window in the upper left of the main viewing window. If the robot will be stationary for some time and a user wants to add extra stability, clicking the "P" icon deploys front and back kickstands to "park" the robot. The designers have included a dual charge gauge showing the separate charge percentages for the tablet and the robot; when both are fully charged, the Double 2 may be used for about 8 hours before requiring a recharge.
The robot moves slowly enough that catastrophic collisions are highly unlikely, so it does not include obstacle sensors (though future models might). If the robot does come into contact with an obstacle, it will stop moving in that direction until the user navigates away from the obstacle. Between the views offered by the regular camera and the floor camera, you shouldn't have much difficulty avoiding obstacles.
At present, students and remote workers head the list of categories of people who use the Double 2. Rochelle mentioned that she works with about 20 young cancer patients who would be otherwise unable to attend school, but can keep up with their studies thanks to the ability to attend remotely via a robot. Similarly, with the rise of distance learning, universities are finding the robots useful for enabling online students to have "hands-on" access to professors and lab materials. As one example, Duke University uses the Double 2 to enable online nursing students to do treatment simulations. And, of course, students or workers who find themselves away from their families for long periods of time use the Double 2 to keep in touch, alleviate homesickness, and participate in family activities even when they can't be there in person.
I found the Double 2 easy to use and have no hesitation in recommending it to any prospective users.
Pros: --Very easy to for anyone to learn how to use
--Isn't cluttered with unnecessary features, but is nevertheless adaptable to a variety of environments and uses
--Viewing window and icons are well-laid out, and there is a nice wide angle of vision
--Floor cam, with view of robot's base
Cons: --No means of tilting the view upward or downward
--No obstacle sensors