Telepresence robots — remote-controlled, wheeled devices that let users control movement and carry video-display “heads” — started out as expensive, buggy devices that were the butt of jokes.
But as more competitors have entered the market and prices have dropped, telepresence robots have moved beyond jokes. Today, iRobot, Double Robotics, Suitable Technologies, VGo Communications, MantaroBot, and Giraff Technologies are just some of the companies that have developed new telepresence models.
Offices use them for teams when some people work remotely. Robots allow them not only to attend meetings, but to participate in water-cooler chats, helping remote workers remain connected to the larger office. Robots can also save companies money by attending conferences and trade shows. Higher-end robots1 can even build maps of offices and integrate with enterprise-level security and encryption systems.
The telepresence sector is expected to reach $372 million in 2019, according to ABI Research,2 and will find uses in healthcare, business management, retail, facilities management and operations, equipment maintenance and repair, and manufacturing. And they may expand their duties to even more sectors in the future. Next year, Florida will be experimenting with robot cops,3 whose hulking, six-foot steel bodies aim to scare parking violators into paying up.