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Telepresence robot can semi-autonomously navigate offices, warehouses



Double Robotics’ newest robot has a mind of its own.

The previous iterations of the Double 3 had been more like “FaceTime on wheels,” co-founders Marc DeVidts and David Cann said in a recent phone call about the telepresence robot on self-balancing wheels. But starting Tuesday, the screen on the roving bot will come with better built-in camera options — and it can get around with just a few clicks. 

Called “click-to-drive,” the human controlling the bot from a computer back at home can control the robot with their face beaming in from a built-in screen. Earlier versions required an iPad to work with the wheel-based robot. Clicking on target points lets the robot navigate around on its own, with sensors helping to avoid obstacles that may come up on its path. 

The robot allows remote workers, students, and others to have a physical presence in a space far from where they are. The company founders listed kids who can’t make it to school because of illness, employees on maternity or paternity leave attending a meeting, managers visiting multiple work locations in a short time span, or even as a front desk receptionist as some of the uses for the robot. They even said at one of their weddings an elderly grandmother used the robot to be at the ceremony when she couldn’t be there in person.

Here’s the new autonomous feature with the “driver” clicking on a location for the Double 3 to roll to — the driver no longer controls the robot like a video game with a keyboard arrow key. “It takes the drivers mind off the need to drive,” the co-founders said.

The Double 3 gets there.

The Double 3 gets there.

Once in a meeting, a conference room, or even a classroom, the robot’s camera has a wider field of view with two cameras on a titling module, so the camera can go up and down as well as pan-tilt and zoom. The camera can focus on something further away on a white board or look down and read a piece of paper on a table in front of it. 

You can watch the roving robot making an office visit on its own with the augmented reality screen guiding the robot to different stops, all while the person behind it is miles away.

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The Double 3 is available to order and is expected to start shipping in late September. The robot and its docking station bundled together are $4,000, but for any users with a Double 2 or older versions, a new “head” can be purchased for $2,000 to attach to the same base as before. Viola — now you have an updated, autonomous rolling robot.

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