Robotics

Mini cardboard telepresence robot can be controlled by video callers

Mini cardboard telepresence ro...
The Smartipresence cardboard telepresence robot kit is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter
The Smartipresence cardboard telepresence robot kit is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter
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The Smartipresence cardboard telepresence robot kit is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter
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The Smartipresence cardboard telepresence robot kit is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter
Video callers can control the movement of the Smartipresence robot using onscreen controls in a web application
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Video callers can control the movement of the Smartipresence robot using onscreen controls in a web application
Once assembled from a kit, a smartphone is placed in the cradle, the robot registered with an online service and a video chat set up
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Once assembled from a kit, a smartphone is placed in the cradle, the robot registered with an online service and a video chat set up
The Smartipresence kit comes with electronics and cardboard components needed to make a desktop telepresence robot
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The Smartipresence kit comes with electronics and cardboard components needed to make a desktop telepresence robot
The assembled robot needs to be registered with the Smartipresence service before video callers can control its movements
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The assembled robot needs to be registered with the Smartipresence service before video callers can control its movements
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Though not a particularly common sight, wheeled robots with tablet-like screens that allow people to be in two places at once have been around for a long time. But, useful as they are, they can be prohibitively expensive. The Smartipresence cuts the price of entry into the telepresence world right down by making use of the ubiquitous smartphone and cardboard.

Launched by The Crafty Robot and designed by Ross Atkin, the Smartipresence project is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign to fund production. It builds on an existing app-driven cardboard robot platform and will come as a kit comprising cardboard parts and re-usable electronics, and leverages the video comms chops of a user's smartphone.

“It’s awful not being able to visit loved ones right now and I wanted to make something to help," said Atkin. "I thought telepresence might be useful, but not the robots designed for corporate environments that cost thousands. I realized that the Smartibot kit already had most of the parts you’d need to make a really accessible telepresence robot that would work in people’s homes. So I designed the extra cardboard parts to make the experience as good as it could be, and worked with Altrubots to put together the software. It’s turned out great. It’s not quite as good as actually being somewhere but it’s a whole lot better than a video call."

Once assembled from a kit, a smartphone is placed in the cradle, the robot registered with an online service and a video chat set up
Once assembled from a kit, a smartphone is placed in the cradle, the robot registered with an online service and a video chat set up

Once assembled, a smartphone is installed in the waiting cradle of the battery-powered, teeny telepresence bot, then it's registered online at the Smartipresence service – 10 hours of usage is included. Users can send friends and family a link to a special webpage and, during the ensuing video chat, the loved ones at the other end can take control of the robot's movements using controls on the pilot page, and they can even tilt the phone screen up or down.

Users can bypass the cardboard kit build and hack battery-operated toys, radio-controlled vehicles and so on to create their own telepresence bot.

It's a neat idea that could add an extra something to video chats with family and friends during the current pandemic isolation and beyond. The Kickstarter runs until September 3, and pledges start at £50 (about US$62). If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video below has more.

Smartipresence: cardboard telepresence robot

Source: The Crafty Robot

View gallery - 5 images
1 comment
Daishi
This thing is pretty cool. I get that most telepresence robots are custom but I still don't fully understand why they start at $3,000 each. You can buy a decent quality and well made RC car for about $60 or $70. How much harder should it be to replace the radio with a controller that has a USB port for a tablet? I'm honestly surprised nobody has just partnered with a a company that makes RC cars so you could buy a $100 kit that allows you to mount an Amazon fire tablet or something. All the technology exists today to solve this problem cheaply (as demonstrated by this kickstarter) yet nobody has.