Can't make that business meeting in another city? Send your robot instead. We've been keeping track of Anybots telepresence robots since they sent one of their QA bots to visit a Singularity University planning meeting. These armless human-sized bots on wheels let you remotely view and interact with people as well as exchange files. You can even let a crowd view the video from a QA by streaming it live through Justin TV. It's the 21st century way to stay in contact or make a PR push without leaving the office. Up to now the QA hasn't been openly available for purchase. That looks like it's about to change. The company's twitter feed just sent out a teaser photo along with the announcement that "Anybots is starting mass production!" Judging by the picture, there's about to be a lot more QAs in the world.
The QA is far from the first telepresence robot to hit the market. The Rovio is a fairly cheap retail bot that lets you use telepresence to monitor your home. Do-it-yourself enthusiasts can build a Sparky Jr. TP robot and customize it to fit their personality. Anybots and the QA, however, offer a higher quality experience with an avatar that's much more human in shape and mobility. The upright bot can look you almost in the eyes, which is a subtle but important means to get viewers to accept the bot (and its controller) in conversation. That could mean a lot to the corporate types as telepresence is starting to replace some forms of business travel. It's uncertain if a robot would enhance or encumber that experience, but I'm sure Anybots is going to get people to try it out.
If mass production of the QA bot goes well, we may see further development of another Anybots project: Dexter. That robot has fully articulated legs instead of wheels and was one of our Best Robots of 2009. Along with Monty (a robot on wheels with an arm), these Anybots projects seem fixed on developing a humanoid robot you can ride around in from a remote location. Whenever that happens, TP bots may become reasonable substitutes for human presence. A year ago it may have seemed like people would never accept such an alien concept as talking with friends through robots. Now, with Surrogates and Avatar firmly fixed in the public conscious, I bet more will be willing to try them out. Looks likes Anybots agrees.
[photo credit: Anybots via Twitter]