Willow Garage Celebrates April Fools’ with “Telepresence for Robots” Video

willow garage april fools telepresence for robots
Do you miss your robot? Use another robot to keep in contact with it!

Everyone likes playing April Fools’ pranks, but when you get robots in on the action, it’s just that much funnier. Willow Garage’s Eric Berger took time out of his busy schedule to give the world a never before seen look into the future of his company. What’s WG’s next big project? Telepresence for Robots. With 10 of their open source PR2 robots being shipped out soon to far away research firms, Willow Garage decided they needed a way to keep in touch. Thankfully they have another robot built just for that, the Texai telepresence platform. Now robots can use other robots to phone home and keep in contact with their family at Willow Garage…Of course it’s all just a joke. But it’s a good one. Watch the video from Willow Garage below. There’s actually some really great footage of the PR2, the Texai, and the WG crew.

As silly as the video may be, it does point to an interesting possibility: the combination of various specialties into one robot platform. The Texai telerobot is basically a video system on wheels. Wheels, which are in fact adapted from the PR2 platform. Considering that the PR2 already has a great series of visual sensors and cameras, would it really take that much to turn it into a personal robot that’s also a telerobot? Probably not worth the money now, but in the future I hope that Willow Garage pursues a modular approach to their hardware. Their software (including the ROS) is already open source and able to be patched together as needed for each application. If the same could be said for their hardware…well the benefits could be equally amazing.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go use a webcam and some mirrors to make an infinite number of computers – instant Singularity!

[screen capture and video credits: Willow Garage]
[source: Willow Garage, My Own Sense of Humor]

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