Our friends at Hizook are getting the word out on a new telepresence robot from MIT called MeBot. The robot displays the operator’s face on its screen, which doubles as its head, sitting atop a 3 DOF neck allowing for simple emotional cues. Two small arms allow non-verbal communication, and a mobile base allows the robot to move around.
Compare MeBot to the Telecommunicator T1; the T1 lacks facial expressions but the MeBot’s video display mixes about as well as oil and water on such a small body (and those comically stubby arms). Translating the operator’s facial expressions into a simple animated face (like emoticons) to be displayed by the robot may be less personal, but doesn’t look as bizarre. Which one looks friendlier?
Left: MeBot in its current form – Right: suggested changes (including body cover)
Additionally, an operator using the T1 wears goggles through which they can see what the robot sees, looking around by simply turning their own head. The MeBot uses a similar system, but without goggles you have to keep your eyes glued to the computer screen as you turn your head in order to see what it sees. The T1’s interface is therefore much more natural, comfortable, and immersive for the operator.
Ideally a telepresence robot such as this would have the mobility of the MeBot, the natural interface of the T1, and (an optional) animated face so as to avoid the jarring effect of a mutant human head on wheels invading your space.