Video conferencing may be cheaper than long-distance travel, but it has its limitations. Among the drawbacks is the fact that you're limited to what the person on the other end of the call wants you to see. Now, Double Robotics is offering a solution. The company out of Mountain View, California is manufacturing a remote-controlled set of wheels to take the iPad mobile. Called Double, the mobile robot lets you direct your iPad from afar, with the camera acting as your eyes and ears.
Double isn't the only telepresence robot available, which suggests that more than a few people think there's a market for rolling iPads. Double Robotics is promoting the product with a number of use cases in mind, including virtual tours, remote site management, and retail kiosks. Competitor VGo, however, is specifically marketing healthcare applications. With a motorized iPad, doctors can monitor patients, and relatives can visit remotely with loved ones in the hospital.
Lofty goals aside, it's hard to see a mobile iPad as the warm, fuzzy friend or colleague it's supposed to replace. On the receiving end, the effect can be a little disconcerting, which I can attest to from my own VGo demo back in April. However, in some situations there are advantages to being able to control a remote camera phone. I just have to wonder if the iPad on wheels is the right approach, or if an intern with a tablet might become the default telepresence alternative.
Double is a compact 15 pounds, and is available for pre-order for $1,999. iPad not included.