iRobot Ava 500 Telepresence Robot Roams Autonomously, Recharges Itself

Earlier this week, I watched Edward Snowden interview at TED2014 in Vancouver. For obvious reason he was not physically in Canada, but instead used some telepresence robots  that could be controlled remotely, and allowed Snowden to move around and see the audience. I thought I may have to look into this type of solutions to write in CNX Spftware, but I eventially did not need to as Linux Gizmos wrote about a similar product called iRobot Ava 500. This robot will automatically learn about its environment, roam the office or factory floor as needed for meetings, and even go back to a docking station to recharge itself when it’s needed.

The pictures above show Ava 500 with Cisco Telepresence EX60 solutions that comes with the following specifications:

  • Cisco TelePresence EX60 display
    • 21.5″ LCD (1920 x 1080)
    • 16:9 aspect ratio, 1000:1 contrast ratio
    • 170° viewing angle
    • 5ms response time
  • Cisco TelePresence EX60 PrecisionHD camera
    • 2.1 MP CMOS sensor
    • 1080p30 and 720p60 modes
    • 50° horiz. FoV
    • 0.1-infinity focal distance
    • Autofocus
    • Multicoated, all-glass optics
  • Connectivity – 802.11a/g/n. Supports 6Mbps H.323/SIP conferencing
  • Audio – 2x front stereo speakers; full-range mic; volume and mute buttons
  • Sensors – LIDAR; 3x 3D imagers; 3x sonars; bumper switches
  • Mobility
    • Holonomic drive
    • 1 m/s max. speed  (3.6 km/h)
    • Autonomous mobility with object detection and obstacle avoidance
    • Automatic robot docking
    • Height adjustment and screen and camera tilt
  • Power
    • Approx. 6 hours battery life
    • Autosensing power supply
    • Wall-mounted charging station with 100-240 VAC 50/60Hz
  • Weight – 84.4 kg
  • Dimensions – 166.4 x 57.5cm

Both the robot and display are said to run Linux. The company, irobot, also provides a remote control app for iPad Mini, as well as iRobot 500 Cloud Service for scheduling and management. The robotic platform controlling the robot is called Aware. The robot can become aware of its environment thanks to its LIDAR laser, 3D imaging, and sonar technologies that support the robot’s obstacle detection and obstacle avoidance (ODOA) system. Once the battery, that can last for about 6 hours, is close to depletion, the robot will automatically go back to a docking station to get charged. If you plan to have a meeting, simply point to the office location in a map shown in the remote control app or cloud service, and the robot will move to the desired location. During he meeting you can adjust the height of the screen to simulate seated or standing positions, and move around as if you were physically present at the meeting.

To understand the different features of this robot, you can watch the promo video below.

According to Engadget, this 1.66m tall robot does not come cheap, as you’d have to fork out $69,500, or rent it for about $2,500 per month. Linux Gizmos points out there are much cheaper options such as Suitable Technologies Beam telepresence robot that start at $16,000, with a low-end version called the Beam+, even being available for as low as  $995. You could even go cheaper with smaller robots from as Synergy Mime and Synergy Swan telepresence robots respectively costs $450 and $900, excluding the Android tablet or smartphone.

Further information about iRobot Ava 500 is available on the product page.

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