The rise of telepresence robots for business and beyond

Today many people use basic teleconference technology through platforms such as Skype and FaceTime, but advancements in robotics are pushing telepresence to the next level.

By incorporating HD and 3D cameras into remote controlled robots, people are able to navigate faraway locations from the comfort of their home computers.  The robots are equipped with screens for face-to-face communication and wheels for mobility.

You can even drive the robot into a charging station and re-power it remotely.

Telepresence robots have demonstrated their usefulness in the office, allowing people to work from home.

“I can actually just telepresence myself and navigate around the office, speaking to all the employees,” says David Merel, the CEO of a small business that uses robots from the telepresence company Double Robotics.

The robots are proving helpful to businesses outside the office in for conferences and trade shows, as well: “Double allows us to actually bring out some of our staff through telepresence to engage with people at the booth, also [handling] overflow.”


Telepresence recently helped Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem attend a Bitcoin conference in Chicago. The robot allowed him to appear at the event despite being under house arrest in New York for money laundering charges.

While impressive, these applications are just the tip of the iceberg for telepresence technology and its implications.

A Chicago woman with paraplegia took part in the Chicago Disabled Pride Parade this past weekend by navigating a robot from Orbis Robotics from her home computer. She previously used the robot to work at an American Legion conference as a spokesperson for Orbis.

Such robots could give home-bound people the opportunity to visit other places and perhaps even hold jobs in fields like sales, where face-to-face interactions could be conducted through screens.

The technology could open up career paths for many people who have never considered working outside their homes as a viable option and give them financial independence.

How can telepresence continue to develop? If the film Surrogates holds any shreds of accuracy, we will turn telepresence robots into humanoids that perform all of our daily tasks and interactions for us and live out our entire lives remotely, with Bruce Willis as our only saviour.

However, this grim view of the future seems unlikely, especially when you look at the distinctly non-human form of the current models.

As we hone telepresence technology, hopefully it continues to allow people to experience the world in new ways rather than limit them to life through a screen.

Featured image: screenshot from Surrogates (2009). Body image and video courtesy of Double Robotics.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC