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This Is the Telepresence Droid You've Been Looking For

June 2, 2010 | Chris Payatagool

Telepresence_Robot_showing.jpgBy: Kit Eaton via Fast Company

Telepresence droids may be in the news at the mo, but previous efforts have looked comedic and been obscenely expensive. Enter Vgo, with a sci-fi-ish name, sleek ready-for-TV looks and a price that's less than an arm and a leg's worth.

Vgo's made, suitably enough, by Vgo Communications Inc., and he's a telepresence droid in the mold of several that have gone before. The idea of the robot is that he can take your physical place in meetings, or even just roaming the corridors of your office, acting as a virtual presence (yes, really--an avatar) while you operate him and communicate via his screen and loudspeaker as if you were actually present. A more perfect excuse for sitting on your home's couch remote-working while supping a cuppa joe in your underwear has not yet been invented.

But where efforts like QB bot have something of the DIY-tech feel to them, Vgo really does seem high-tech (apart from that slightly flimsy wobble caused by his tall, slender profile). We don't know much about the precise tech inside him, but we can guess things like collision sensors, wireless networking, and self-parking-for-charge systems (a lot like a Roomba with a screen and speaker atop it, really). We've contacted Vgo Comms. on this matter, but really the main attractive feature of the bot is his price: $5,000, plus a mandatory $1,200 yearly support deal. Considering QB is scheduled to cost something like $15,000 when it hits the stores this fall, this means Vgo may actually be an affordable option for certain high-tech companies.

This sort of technology is going to arrive in the mainstream, eventually. Home working has so many advantages for some workers that it'll surely become more popular, and since the communal office space is a business model that's not going to evaporate any time soon, telepresence bots are a neat half-way house. Plus, in my mind I've already combined Vgo with the bowling ball balancing robot that wowed the Interwebs a few weeks ago, and crafted something a bit like Serge Graystone from Caprica, so I'm excited by the prospect of having a really sci-fi telepresence version of me roaming the corridor's of Fast Company's New York HQ.

QR_code.jpgTo keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take your smartphone to my Twitter feed too.


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