A robot invasion doesn’t have to be scary, though it’s important to know that it isn’t science fiction anymore. When the film 2001 A Space Odyssey came out in 1968, Dr Floyd’s casual use of a teleconference robot during a space station layover was as much science fiction as the “space plane” he took to get there, or the moon base that served as his final destination. By the time 2001 actually rolled around though, teleconferencing was already mainstream, and space planes were under development. As for moon bases, Bigelow Aerospace just petitioned the FAA for rights to a mining colony on the moon. With the new highly-mobile workforce coordinating complex projects across countries, time zones and across the void of space, the day of the telepresence robot has arrived.
Telepresence robots have been discussed on traditional business media sites like Information Week, Forbes and The Economist. These robots have taken on all kinds of new responsibilities from the operating room to the board room. Although remote medical applications are the most common uses for telepresence robots today, forward-looking companies like Microsoft and Xtreme Labs are using them to overcome common operational bottlenecks, like new employee orientation. Parents are beginning to see telepresence robots as the 21st century evolution of the baby monitor. In any case, don’t be surprised if your next business meeting involves at least one such automaton.
Right now, the response to telepresence robots from most employees ranges from “excited” to “creeped out.” As the novelty factor wears off though, it soon becomes apparent how productive it can be to instantly connect with valued team members located anywhere around the world. We are finally entering the era when we can reclaim all that time wasted on travel. Two-way communication across multiple locations with a simple interface has effectively turbo-charged efficiency across the board. This is more important than ever in a time of global recession and increased competition.
The practical and financial benefits of this technology will drive further development as such robots become more common. The future of integrating robots into the workforce is clear since it allows the average mobile worker to enjoy more of their lives outside the office. For now, telepresence robots can only be used for two-way communication, but the technology is not far off, and soon enough they will be able to take on more complex tasks like decision-making and even design.
The Internet was the first major contributor to the “death of distance”. After VoIP video phone calls, telepresence robots became the next logical evolution in virtually instant communication across vast distances. Now, the latest generation of telepresence robots have greater mobility, better cameras and some can now be even operated by an iPad. At RobotShop, we’ve introduced Double Robotics as one of the most affordable professional telepresence systems on the market to allow a wider range of people and businesses to experience the power of telepresence.
The fact the the 2016 Olympics in Rio will provide telepresence robots for all operating rooms demonstrates how even developing countries are using this technology to accelerate into the future. Like the Invasion of British Science Fiction in the 1960’s, the Invasion of Telepresence Robots has the potential to improve our daily lives in meaningful ways – most of which we have not yet even begun to explore.