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Could a rolling robot be rolling your way soon?

A couple of months ago, in posting about neural networks, I wrote a bit about my experience with robotics when I was in grad school at UMass back in the day. Robotics have gotten a lot more sophisticated since then, as I was recently reminded when I came across an article, “The Rolling Robot Will Connect You Now”, in The New York Times.

The article noted that, with the cost of remote-controlled robots  – a.k.a., telepresence machines – going down (some of the lower-end consumer-oriented ones can now be had for something in the $1 – 2K range), these robots would start being used more widely. They:

… could serve as a conduit for virtual visits from family and friends to help older people live at home longer. Traveling business people could use them to show their faces — by way of a screen on the rolling robot — to colleagues at central headquarters, or to read bedtime stories to their children from afar.

Ethicists have weighed in, suggesting that, for example, adult children with elderly parents might just check up on them remotely, rather than hop in the car for a “real” (and more meaningful and personal) visit.

Those possibilities aside, there are a number of important and interesting areas where these telepresence machines can be deployed. Think of telemedicine. And about kids who are ill and stuck at home for long periods, and who, with a robot, could stay more closely involved with their classmates and teachers. It’s also fun to think of the business uses, which is especially interesting to me now that I’m spending a lot more time on the road than I used to.

As an avid Evernote user, I remember reading a while back that Evernote’s CEO Phil Libin helped make sure that the folks who worked in a facility remote from their Mountain View, California, headquarters felt like they were a real part of the company.

Don’t worry, Critical Link employees, I’m not going to be setting this up anytime soon. But it’s kind of fun to think about it!