August 2, 2010
Anybots, a telerobotics company in Mountain View, California, announced that it has created the "first professional-quality mobile avatar robot" for the workplace.
The $15,000 robot, called QB, is completely mobile as it has two wheels and collision avoidance technology to avoid bumping into tables, running into doors or damaging walls. It has high quality audio and video for an enhanced interactive user experience. The robot cruises at a speed of 3.5 mph, just enough to keep up with groups of people walking across the office and can get through a typical work day with its eight-hour battery life.
According to CNN, Trevor Blackwell, CEO of Anybots, believes that "the robot-infused workplace" is the next big thing, especially for offices with remote employees. "People that are working with a remote team need it the most...it's really about letting the remote person join in the conversations wherever the conversations are happening," he said.
Blackwell also argued that QB would be highly beneficial in factories. "We use it in our factory, which is actually just on the other side of town. But so many factories are in Asia," he said. Typically, if there were a problem in a factory that needed to be addressed, a generalist would have to spend a whole day flying across the country to assess the issue. With QB, however, companies will no longer be "geographically constrained" as an experienced engineer can do an inspection instantly.
Robotics Technology reported that office receptionists can also do their jobs without actually being in the office. With QB's technology, receptionists can greet visitors, escort guests and manage office activities with just Wi-Fi and a computer.
In the press release, Blackwell noted that CEOs, and other employees, can stay connected while on vacation. Blackwell, for instance, was able to extend a recent trip to Hawaii because he was still "in the office" via laptop and headset.
Robot technology has been around for a long time, but only for specialized uses. For example, bomb-disposal robots are often used in situations that are too dangerous for humans. Because of the Internet, said Blackwell to CNN, robots are now practical for every day offices.
Anybots and a few other companies have recently been trying to push the idea of robots in the workplace. Blackwell speculated that within a year, "every office in Silicon Valley, California, will have about one telepresence robot for every 10 employees". He stated that this new technology will change the office dynamic in a similar way that e-mail did. "When e-mail first came out, people only used it for sending serious documents, and now people will use it to send one-sentence things to the guy on the other side of the office...as [robots] become more common, people are going to use it for frivolous purposes," he said.
Blackwell also added, "it's nice if you could save [people] a commute".
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Making Business Travel Obsolete: Anybots Arrive in November," businesswire.com, July 28, 2010
"Robotics-Anybots Accepting Orders for Anybots QB a Professional Quality Mobile Avatar Robot," robotics.tmcnet.com, August 2, 2010, Shamila Janakiraman
"The robot that visits your cubicle," CNN.com, July 30, 2010, John D. Sutter