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First person report: "My life as a (telepresence) robot"

September 10, 2015 | Telepresence Options

MyLifeAsARobot.jpg

Story and images by Emily Dreyfuss / ISPR

I have been part robot since May. Instead of legs, I move on gyroscopically stabilized wheels. Instead of a face, I have an iPad screen. Instead of eyes, a camera with no peripheral vision. Instead of a mouth, a speaker whose volume I can't even gauge with my own ears. And instead of ears, a tinny microphone that crackles and hisses with every high note.

I'm a remote worker; while most of WIRED is in San Francisco, I live in Boston. We IM. We talk on the phone. We tweet at each other, but I am often left out of crucial face-to-face meetings, spontaneous brainstorm sessions, gossip in the kitchen.

So my boss found a solution: a telepresence robot from Double Robotics, which would be my physical embodiment at headquarters, extending myself through technology. Specifically, an iPad on a stick on a Segway-like base. The telepresence robot market is crowded, ranging from high-end offerings like iRobot's Ava (starting price: $69K) to the relatively more affordable Double, which starts at $2,499. The company says it has sold nearly 5,000 of them since its launch in 2012. Mostly these go to big corporations like IBM and McDonald's, but I've heard of teachers and hospitals using them, too. Supposedly all a Double needs to work is a strong Wi-Fi signal.

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