An Advanced Telepresence Robot for Hospitals & Home Care

3 reviews Giraff


Hospitals and physicians around the world are beginning to use telepresence robots to enhance the medical care they provide. Although many different robot models are in use in the medical field, the Giraff Plus appears to have a clear edge over the others, having been designed specifically with medical observation and monitoring functions in mind. Aided by research grants from the European Union and driven by a team of scientists and researchers principally hailing from Sweden and Italy, Giraff offers a telepresence robot whose accessories enable physicians to provide an unprecedented depth of client care.

While the Giraff can function as a multipurpose telepresence robot similar to others I’ve test driven, it truly shines when it is deployed as the linchpin of a comprehensive medical remote monitoring system (which is what makes it “Giraff Plus”), primarily intended to support elderly people who live alone. Accessories such as door and window sensors, a blood pressure station, a timed pill dispenser, and a pressure-sensitive mat (monitoring vital signs during sleep or rest) all relay information through the robot to a remote medical operator/observer, enabling physicians to check in with their patients or quickly respond in the case of an emergency. If you’re interested in more details about how the monitoring system works, I highly recommend you watch the mini-documentaries on the Giraff website (

The controls of the Giraff Plus are very straightforward, and the control window contains all necessary command buttons and instructions without seeming cluttered. Users drive the robot by clicking on a destination onscreen (a “trail” will appear behind the mouse pointer) and then holding the button until reaching that destination. Moving the pointer while continuing to hold down the button allows you to alter your path as you go. To pivot in place, simply double-click in the desired direction. The Giraff stands about 1.7 meters (about 5 ½ feet) tall when the “Stand” button is selected, but can be lowered using the “Sit” button. There are additional buttons for driving backward (in small increments only, as there is no rear view camera), speaker volumes (yours and the Giraff’s), night vision, doing a U-turn (pivoting 180 degrees in place), and simplifying the screen by removing the buttons. The camera itself offers a curved quasi-spherical view, allowing for both good straight-ahead vision as well as some peripheral vision, and by moving the mouse wheel, a user can tilt the camera up or down (the downward range extends to a vertical view of the base). The robot must be driven back to its charging dock manually, but since it connects face-first, this isn’t difficult to do.

The Giraff Plus is available worldwide and in addition to its obvious utility within the medical industry, should prove particularly attractive to companies looking for remote security solutions (the night vision, broad camera view, and door/window sensor accessories both come to mind here). Given the rising mean age of citizens in most industrialized nations, however, I see the Giraff Plus–as a comprehensive patient-monitoring system–making its greatest impact in elderly health care.

Additional Notes:
– Even with the 9-hour time difference, I felt Giraff’s customer service was reasonably prompt, as well as courteous. It was a pleasure to work with Dan, the gentleman who walked me through the demo session.
– One thing Dan pointed out to me is that different nations’ health care systems might impact how widely the Giraff Plus (or, indeed, competing companies’ robots) are adopted and how they’re used. I’m curious about whether the USA’s complex–and still-evolving–health care system will accommodate the full scope of what the Giraff designers have envisioned.

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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

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I chose Giraff for a project because it can be programmed – unlike most other telepresence robots available. It has worked great for demos and I look forward to creating customized solutions for people in the future.

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