Mini cardboard telepresence robot can be controlled by video callers
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, 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.
Source: The Crafty Robot