I saw this article last week: a company with satellite offices in different countries solves the videoconferencing problem with their own home-built robot named POGO. While I applaud the DIY approach, I really have to ask why it was necessary.
From the article:
The company had already considered and discarded video conferencing as too expensive and less convenient. That led to the birth of POGO at a cost of about $8,000 to $9,000...
... having the robot enables team members to use white boards to explain concepts to the offshore team and get instant reactions instead of trying to communicate through phone or e-mail.
My first thought is that this article is really leaving some information out. But given what we have to work with, why was a robot the solution? If they're using a webcam, clearly they don't need high-res projectors or video cameras for their conferences (which would certainly be expensive). And how did a webcam and monitor tacked onto a mobile base cost $8k? I don't understand how the expensively-implemented cheap solution is superior to the more expensive COTS solution. The only difference seems to be remote-controlled mobility. But if all they're doing with it is "using white boards to explain concepts", why is the mobility necessary if the whiteboards are fixed in place?
A video from CBS indicates that one of the advantages is that the Pakistani employees can move POGO from room to room to look at whiteboards, but I'm really thinking a handful of webcams are still cheaper than this... What are the advantages of a robot in this situation? Is there market for this outside of the novelty of it?
Also, whoever decided has a "slight resemblance to R2-D2" has clearly never seen R2-D2.