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The Best Affordable Telepresence Robots

Friday July 5, 2019

Telepresence robots enable their users to interact with environments far away from their current location, and they can be used in different contexts for many different applications. Telepresence robots have been used in hospitals, museums, schools, nursing homes, colleges, and real estate agencies. 

Yet what benefits do telepresence robots have over traditional methods of digital communication systems? Furthermore, how much does a telepresence robot cost? And which are the best affordable telepresence robots?

Let’s examine telepresence robots in greater detail and find the answer to these questions.

What Is A Telepresence Robot?

The term telepresence describes any technology which enables a person to simulate being in one location when they are in another location. This can include observing the surroundings of their virtual location, or even interacting with objects or people in that secondary location. 

Basic telepresence systems will include only visual and audio feedback, frequently by streaming video to the user through a static camera mountain in the secondary location. A simple form of interaction is letting the user control the direction/orientation of the camera, so they can see more of the surroundings in the remote location.  

Telepresence robots build off of this general concept by enabling the user to control the robot and move throughout space in the remote location, or even interact with objects in the secondary location by manipulating the arms of a robot. Driveable telepresence robots are robots which are set on a wheeled base and capable of movement, and telepresence robots are considered “adaptive” and distinct from more immersive yet stagnant telepresence systems. 

There are different degrees of fidelity, or immersion, into a remote environment that a telepresence system can afford users. Virtual reality systems can be considered an extension of telepresence technologies, which operate with the goal of giving the user of the VR system greater immersion into the simulated environment they are perceiving. 

While the degree of immersion for the operator is important to consider, how the people interacting with the operator experience the communication is also an important consideration. Good telepresence robots can help make the experience of interacting with a person through a robot less jarring. 

Telepresence robots can simulate the height of a person by having the camera and display be mounted on a pole, with the camera positioned such that the device’s operator seems to actually be having eye contact with the user.

What Are The Benefits Of Telepresence Robots?

Telepresence robots have a number of benefits over traditional telecommunications devices or non-robotic telepresence systems. For one, telepresence robots can drastically decrease travel costs for corporations that constantly implement them in lieu of travel to remote locations. 

Users of telepresence robots can remain present at the company headquarters if they are still needed there, yet still attend meetings at offsite locations. By reducing travel, telepresence robots also cut down on CO2 emissions and help reduce a company’s carbon footprint.

Telepresence robots also have advantages over non-robotic telepresence systems. In contrast to a simple camera system, a robot can be controlled by the user to manipulate objects remotely, which enables functions like remotely handling the organization of items or tools.

As the technology behind telepresence robots improve, the robots will have a greater degree of autonomy, able to move around a building and carry out tasks when not being manually controlled. Future telepresence robots will be able to take voice commands and maneuver through dangerous/difficult environments thanks to improved sensors. OhmniLabs in Silicon Valley is currently developing these features. 

How Can Telepresence Robots Be Used?

Telepresence robots can be used in work environments, school environments, or almost any context that can be imagined. Some examples of telepresence robot applications include uses in hospitals, schools, colleges, real estate agencies, nursing homes and museums.

School and colleges are areas where telepresence robots having growing potential and adoption rates. Telepresence robots can be used in these environments for a number of different tasks. 

Children who suffer from serious health problems can attend school remotely through telepresence robots, and telepresence robots can also allow teachers to teach classes remotely when some logistical problem prevents the teacher from being there in person.

Telepresence robots can be used in hospitals to allow doctors to keep in touch with their patients even when they can’t be there physically, and they can also be used to let the patient’s families check in on patients from a distance. Similarly, telepresence robots are also of use in nursing homes, where family members can see how their relatives in the nursing home are doing. 

In terms of real estate applications, telepresence robots could be used to let prospective buyers remotely tour a property, or to let real estate agents check in on properties from afar. Meanwhile, museums could use telepresence robots to have remote experts walk guests through exhibits or to have special presentations from experts without having to fly the person in.

Many more uses of telepresence robots exist, and they are increasingly seeing use for tasks like inspecting industrial factories from afar, or as replacements for night watchmen or security guards. If an inspection of an unstable or hazardous area needs to be carried out, telepresence robots can keep people safe by allowing remote inspection of regions. For instance, telepresence robots can be used by researchers to collect data on areas suffering from intense pollution or radiation.

What Do Telepresence Robots Cost?

The cost of telepresence robots can vary dramatically, running a large range from tens of thousands of dollars to just a few hundred dollars. Generally, the cheaper telepresence robots lack many of the functions that the higher end telepresence robots have. However, there is an outstanding telepresence robot you can buy that does not comprise features for price. Keep reading!

It’s necessary to consider your needs and means when deciding on a telepresence robot. You don’t want to end up spending a bunch of money on a telepresence robot that has a bunch of features you don’t use, or doesn’t have the features you need.

However, if you are looking for bargain telepresence robots that are relatively cheap yet still useful, there are a few notable options.

Appbot Riley Home Safety Movable Camera Robot

In terms of the cheapest telepresence robots, the Appbot Riley Home Safety Movable Camera Robot is one of the cheapest available telepresence robots, under 200 dollars. The Riley bott is controlled through an app and it has 720p HD footage available through a live stream, as well as IR night vision and a microphone that supports two way audio communication.

KUBI Classic Telepresence Robot

Another fairly cheap telepresence robot is the KUBI Classic Telepresence Robot. The KUBI robot is web controlled and it converts a tablet into a device that can rotate back and forth, tilt and pan. 

Kubi costs around 700 dollars, and it is compatible with more tablets. Note that the KUBI is not capable of motion.

Padbot U1

The Padbot U1 is another fairly cheap telepresence robot, with a pricepoint of around 800 dollars. The Padbot intended for home use, and its tires can maneuver over both carpet and tile with ease. The device can be remotely activated, and it is compatible with most tablets.

Why The Ohmni Telepresence Robot Is The Best

While there are many telepresence robots out there, the Ohmni Telepresence Robot offers you a combination of features and prices you can’t get anywhere else. Ohmni telepresence bots come with two cameras, one for the main view and one that lets the operator avoid obstacles. 

Ohmni Robot Specs Unfolded Front

Resolution on the main camera is excellent, with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. The Ohmni Telepresence bot is also easy to charge, and it can be directe back to its charging dock by hitting a simple button. The Ohmni telepresence bot is also able to drive across wire or cables without getting them trapped in the wheels. 

Ohmni telepresence robots are also safe and secure, using a secure server to handle calls. During the call, any data transmitted is encrypted, and no information will ever be stored.

In comparison to other telepresence robots, the Ohmni telepresence robot is designed to be multipurpose, just as usable in the home as in a business environment. Most other telepresence robots are designed for business use and can’t navigate home environments very well. 

Moreover, while most telepresence robots are not equipped to include VR components for their operators yet, the Ohmni robot has implemented inverse kinematics into its development kit.

These attributes give the Ohmni telepresence robot an advantage over other telepresence robots, and in terms of pricing it is competitively priced. The Ohmni telepresence robot costs around $1,695 USD, while other similar robots can cost upwards of $2,000 USD.

Conclusion

Telepresence robots are useful devices that allow people to communicate and explore remote areas from any location with internet access. Telepresence robots have many benefits and applications like allowing doctors to check up on patients in hospitals, assisting teachers in schools, letting people check in on their homes when abroad, and allowing museums to let remote experts lead tours. 

While there are many telepresence robots available for use, such as the KUBI Classic Telepresence Robot or the Padbot U1, the Ohmni telepresence robot stands out from the other by offering high quality cameras, mobility, and ease of use for a reasonable price.