I took MantaroBot's TeleMe 2 telepresence robot for a test drive today and found it easy to understand, use, and customize according to my preferences. If you're unfamiliar with the emerging technology of telepresence robots, these robots are designed to allow users to interact with colleagues and remote physical environments during conference calls, security surveillance, and other teleconferencing situations. The TeleMe 2 allows users to maneuver it forward and backward, with gradations veering to the right or left, and also enables users to tilt the camera perspective up, down, right and left (and combinations thereof). Users move the robot by clicking and holding the mouse button, and moving the pointer on a small directional field window (the drive pad), or have the option of driving by using the arrow, Ctrl, and Alt keys on a computer keyboard. It is also possible to control the robot via a computer joystick; I haven't tried this out, as I don't have a joystick. One can adjust the camera perspective with one's left hand (using the A, W, S, D, and C keys) while controlling the robot's movement with one's right hand. The TeleMe 2 also allows users to create up to three preset camera positions. To make my maiden voyage smoother, my presets included straight ahead, downward (in order to double-check for obstacles), and backward (since this TeleMe 2 included the optional 360° pan), which gave me the ability to "look around" but quickly snap back to default views without needless extra fussing with the controls.
The TeleMe 2 includes sensors to detect approaching obstacles, and automatically reduces speed in their proximity. The top speed is slow enough that novice users don't need to worry about inadvertently crashing into obstacles and damaging the robot. Users can play it even safer and adjust the speed of the robot, as well as the sensitivity of the drive pad, to minimize jerky movements while learning to maneuver the robot. The TeleMe 2 supports optional features such as the ability to pirouette (spin clockwise or anti-clockwise in one spot), headlights (with three settings) to accommodate users needing to move through or perform surveillance on darker rooms and areas, a laser pointer for use in meetings, and newer circuitry that allows charging of higher powered tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. All TeleMe 2 robots feature a new drive train, quiet enough to be unobtrusive in business, hospital, or home environments.
Operation of TeleMe 2 robots isn't limited to computer users, however; users can also operate the robots via tablet or phone. Businesses that prefer to keep all communications in-house can configure the TeleMe 2 to operate on their secure networks. During my test drive, I operated the robot via a combination of the Chrome browser (for the drive pad) and Skype for Desktop, but other browsers and audio/video conferencing software work as well. From my conversation with Kamal, who graciously answered my many questions during the test drive, I learned that in the near future they will be releasing a MantaroBot Controller for Android that will allow Android users to simultaneously run video-conferencing software and their controller app in the foreground; this will enable those customers that prefer to use one single mobile device to control their MantaroBot and simultaneously conduct the audio/video conference.
If you'd like to try out this technology but are worried it might be too complicated for you, let me reassure you that the manual's operation instructions are easy to understand and the controls are intuitive. The TeleMe 2 robot is easy to use, allows remote users greater versatility as they interact with their colleagues and distant physical environments, and offers businesses a practical upgrade on existing teleconferencing or remote security surveillance technology.