Giraff is undeniably one of the best options for a telepresence robot on the market. I was looking forward to driving the Giraff and after a brief discussion with Dan through e-mail; I managed to schedule a demo. Dan was very kind and responded to my messages in a timely manner. Before I could test the Giraff, a specialized program had to be installed. The name made me giggle right away – “Giraff Pilot”. I’m not a big fan of going through all the trouble of downloading and installing software, but I have to admit that it was really fast and straightforward.
I found the start screen of the program very amusing – before I could connect to a device, an adorable message showed up – “Looking for Giraffes”. After just a couple of seconds, I was already exploring Giraff Technologies' office in Sweden. Driving around a Giraff was almost effortless. The control system is very intuitive and what makes everything even better is that there’s an automated u-turn, as well as the option to double click in the direction you’d like to go. That makes following a person so much easier.
What really amazed me was how easy it was to overcome obstacles. I got in and out of an elevator without difficulty. As we moved around the office, I found that the WiFi signal wasn’t exactly great everywhere and that our connection would start to fall apart if I went to the far end of the room. Naturally, that has nothing to do with the quality of the robot. However, it helped me discover a great function of the Giraff – the video resolution would change according to the strength of the WiFi signal.
The Giraff can go pretty fast, if you‘re brave enough to accelerate. I tried reaching the top speed in the hallway of Giraff Technologies. However, this robot has no systems, preventing it from hitting people, walls and falling down stairs. That’s why I preferred to play it safe, but still I felt that the robot was very agile. You can look up and down, using the mouse wheel. The camera can also be moved, as there are two positions of the robot – standing and sitting. That’s undeniably a very useful function, as it really improves the quality of the conversation with the other side. However, I found that changing the position was very noisy – I guess that’s a feature that needs to be improved in future projects.
The battery life isn’t amazing, but offers a completely reasonable amount of time to be productive before you need to recharge. Speaking of that – there’s no automated docking program and you need to dock the robot manually. It’s not very hard, although it takes some patience and imagination. Of course, I’d prefer using a button that would save me all the time and effort.
My overall impression with Giraff was very good. To sum it up:
+ Great customer service
+ Easy to install software
+ Intuitive control
+ Easy turning – double click and u-turn.
+ Effortless overcoming of obstacles
+Changes resolution if the WiFi signal is weak
+ Fast and agile
+ You can look up and down
+ There’s a sitting and a standing mode of the camera
- Needs specialized software
- No crash avoidance system
- Noisy transition from sitting to standing
- No auto-docking