What with the recent telepresence boom in the United States it’s sometimes easy to forget about developments in other countries. R.Bot is a Russian company founded in mid-2008 with more than 50 specialists from Bauman MSTU, MIPT, MPEI, and other leading Russian institutes. Their telepresence robot R.Bot 100 is said to be no more expensive than a high-end personal computer (approximately $3,000 USD), making it one of the most affordable in the world.
Already the company has helped carry out the first Russian distance learning experiments, allowing a boy who is too sick to attend classes to receive lessons through the robot. “Of course being there in person’s better, but if you can’t access going to school it’s a really useful object,” explained the boy. His mother praised the robot’s ability to connect him with his friends again. The R.Bot 100 is currently undergoing its beta testing phase, including use in military hospitals where doctors are doing the rounds from their offices.
An internet connection and a standard pc, laptop, or smart phone, is all you need to control it with the installed software or a simple web browser interface. A camera and microphones in the head give you a live audio-video feed, while an optional screen can be mounted to the robot to allow face-to-face conversations. The neck has 4 degrees of freedom that can be controlled to pan and tilt. Your voice is projected through the speakers in its body, which is 130cm (4’3″) tall, 55cm (21″) in diameter, and weighs 35kg (77 lbs). The company also offers stand-alone cameras that can be set up to get various views of your home or office. The robot moves on two drive wheels, which allow it to spin in place, but has a third wheel for stability. A more complex configuration adds some height to the upper body, along with two arms with simple grippers. It can operate for around 8 hours before its batteries need to be recharged.
Video (telemedical application, Russian news report):
Video (distance learning, English news report):