Self-navigating Telepresence

The Ava 500 remote presence robot pictured at the head of a table during a business meeting.

     The Ava 500 is the result of two great companies working together. iRobot and Cisco have partnered up to create a new telepresence robot, the Ava 500. iRobot is taking advantage of their Ava platform with its 3d laser mapping and self-navigating feature, while Cisco is using their EX60 remote conference and enterprise network expertise. This enables employees to focus on conferencing rather than learning to drive and navigate around obstacles.

     The Cisco EX60 screen is 21.5”, larger than most desktop screens, and several inches over Suitable Technologies' 17.5” screen for the BEAM Pro telepresence robot. While there are no details on the number of antennas, an advantage Ava has over other telepresence robots is that when you hit a dead spot, presumably, the Ava 500 will keep on going to its preset destination thanks to its localization and navigation algorithm. Though the video may cut out, at least you’ll reconnect at somepoint. An additional feature of the Ava 500 as compared to its predecessors is the ability to change height. Previous models were a fixed height, the Ava 500 can shift between a standing and sitting height.

     Overall this is very solid offering from iRobot and Cisco. The self-navigation alone sets it apart from other telepresence robots, the $2000/month price tag however may relegate it to use by larger corporations. There are of course limitations to Ava and telepresence robots in general. iRobot is recognizing the fact that many offices are spread out amongst multiple floors which poses a problem if you have no means to operate an elevator. Of course if it’s not elevators, it’s doorway thresholds. No word on the ground clearance.


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