Erico Guizzo, with the IEEE Spectrum offices, took the AnyBots remote QB telepresence robot for a spin recently. Rather than just a quick trial, he actually went through the total out-of-the-box experience (with the help of trained support staff from any box), and used the robot for several days in actual work situations.
All things considered, his experience was quite positive, and he feels that the robot has some practical applications.
We won't rehash our previous concerns about the lack of aesthetic design among all the remote telepresence robots currently on the market. That will be determined soon enough by potential customers. But, one thing that did occur to us in watching his experience was that the real potential for this type of robot is likely to be very niche market where users have a compelling need.
For example, a legal firm that needs to take depositions from witnesses or other interested parties at remote locations might be a perfect target customer. Venture capitalists, investment brokers, medical professionals, and other very scarce resources will definitely benefit tremendously from this type of application.
On the other hand, we feel that the application for general use, say telecommuting and working from home, maybe quite limited. We really can envision a situation where where an office area is occupied primarily by telepresence robots wandering around chatting with each other. When adoption reaches that level, it would make much more sense to just use direct video conferencing rather than having physical avatars.
Nevertheless, the potential market is huge, and the needs are real even if they are more niche market and limited than some of the manufacturers would like us to believe. We're really anxious to see how this technology, and the market evolves.
Whenever any new technology first becomes available, we tend to use it in the same way that we used the technology that replaces. For example, the first computers were used primarily as more efficient calculators, or more powerful typewriters.
It's only after the new technology is in the hands of the users, and after they have some time to become familiar with it, that the most innovative users start to use the technology in new and exciting ways that the manufacturer never in their wildest dreams ever imagined possible.
It's going to be really exciting to see what new, creative, surprising ways telepresence robots are put to use, and how they improve our productivity and quality of life.