Telepresence robots have really boomed for the last 2 years. You can find all kind of robots ranging from the PC mobile base at $300 to the professional product at several thousand dollars.
Thanks to telepresence robots, you can have a better presence with distant relatives, you can work from home while still be in touch with your colleagues, you can attend conferences without paying for the place tickets...
It can make your worklife more flexible, feel closer to your family or just be a very cool toy.
As I said, there are a lot of these robots out there. They have been around for a while now, and the offer is getting wide.
The first clients seem to be professional and hospitals. iRobot's AVA is focusing on hospital presence, so that doctors can visit patients in different hospitals, busy people can rent them to visit relatives over the internet, etc...
There is also a need for patrol robots, as the French Jazz Security robot or the Korean prison guard robot show. These robots will roam around in a building and detect any kind of movement. At that time, they can be remote controlled to check closer on the anomaly.
I want to note that the Jazz robot is also the cutest out there, as can be seen in the picture.
Now, all the previous robots are in the thousands of dollars range. And they can't handle objects since they have no arms.
What kind of telepresence robots can YOU buy? The cheapest kind is the little Spykee Spy Robot that works over wi-fi. It can be used both as a toy (with all kinds of sounds and all) or as a way to check over your shop, kids or whatever you need to check from distance.
Another way is to use a PC as a mobile robot. For that, you need a mobile platform to put your PC on, and another PC to control it. The iCreate platform was made for that. You can easily put a PC on it and off you go. You can also add a Kinect on the whole thing and start your autonoumous robot.
A new base has been created too especially to make a robot: the Occulus by Xaxxon. It comes with the software to control it, and has neat features like the light and a very sturdy bas.
For the PC choice, actually, anything that can connect to wi-fi and get a webcam (either integrated or USB) should be okay. Still check if your base can connect through USB.
Finally, you can also make your very own tele-robot. You will most likely still need a PC (for wi-fi and webcam processing), but you can build your own robot base using a microcontroller like Arduino, and a motor driver.
I will put some DIY projects on the website this year, so that you can build your own robotic base. If you want to be the first to know, you can subscribe to the Robot Tips and I'll send you regular updates and advice on robot and robot building.
Today, the new fashion in telepresence is to use Kinect to control humanoid robots. Kinect is a camera conceived to play the Xbox with your body movement instead of a remote. But if you map your movements to a humanoid robot (which is not simple, by the way), you can control your robot to handle objects and do complicated tasks remotely.
Now, if you combine a few more things, shake it a little and debug it, here is what you get:
Other pages that may interest you:
The traditional japanese tea robot is a great example of how to make robots without any electricity and high-tech devices. Just pure design.
Got a lawn? Get a robot lawn mower! If you ask for expert services to get your lawn perfect, a robot may actually be a good econmic choice.
Learn how to build a robot. Use the resources on the website to learn how you could build your own personal robot.