Thursday, January 08, 2009

anybots telepresence robot

Congrats to Trevor Blackwell and the rest of the Anybots team on the launch of QA at CES. QA is a telepresence robot that gives you a way to have human like interactions at a distance. Sort of the inverse of Second Life. Rather than meeting in a virtual space, QA gives you a robot to control in the real world. Wonderful stuff. Philip had suggested doing a robot like this several years ago, although I don't know if he's continued thinking about it. I got to see QA at the Y Combinator demo day last spring and am thrilled to see it released.

For those who haven't thought about telepresence, consider for a moment what it gives a remote employee compared to tele- or video conferencing. The remote employee suddenly signals attention and presence -- who are you talking to, what are you working on -- and gains the ability to physically participate with those who are onsite. You start knowing what conversations the distance participant is a part of, what they are focused on, and have a natural way to gain their attention -- you just walk up to them. In much the same way that Second Life avatars in meetings rapidly map onto real people, I am sure that after a few minutes of interaction with QA you forget that you're talking to someone at a distance. Huge implications for collaboration, education, medicine, and communication. Much like Second Life, I expect that we haven't begun to scratch the surface of interesting uses for telepresence.

Even more fun, think about what happens when telepresence and virtual worlds meet. When you have a continuous mix of real-world and virtual participation, linked by the kind of work MIT is doing with mixed reality buildings.

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