Over the past year, several people and organizations have been beta testing the robot, providing feedback to the company. The beta testers include Carnegie Mellon University faculty and NASA executives.
Even I got to be a QB for a week last year -- and I have to say, showing up to work in a robot body is a pretty cool experience:
Now the initial beta-testing phase has ended, and after improving the QB design, Anybots is ready to ship the robot. And who's buying it? Alas, the company declined to name any customers who ordered this first batch of bots.
The QB model shipping now includes several new features. Now users controlling the robot can use high-definition zoom to get a closer look of people and objects. The robot is also capable of seamlessly switching from one Wi-Fi access point to another.
But the most important feature: Finally, QB is capable of two-way video streaming, with the face of the operator appearing on a small LCD display on the robot's head. This was a major limitation with the pre-production prototype I tested.
Needless to say, Anybots is pretty excited about the possibilities of robotic telepresence. Indeed, it's been a long journey for them, and I applaud their persistence in putting a sophisticated robot in the market.
"Everyone from a cookie manufacturer looking to manage remote factories to a CEO who simply can’t make it to every meeting in person--teleporting via an Anybot has already given these people a new perspective on work," Anybots founder and CEO Trevor Blackwell said in a statement.
"At first I thought the bot would pay for itself if it could just replace one international trip," said Phil Libin, founder and CEO of Evernote and one of the beta testers, "but now I realize that the real value is letting me preserve spontaneous interactions at the office even when I'm thousands of miles away."
Photo: Randi Silberman-Klett/IEEE Spectrum
Erico Guizzo is the Director of Digital Innovation at IEEE Spectrum, and cofounder of the IEEE Robots Guide, an award-winning interactive site about robotics. He oversees the operation, integration, and new feature development for all digital properties and platforms, including the Spectrum website, newsletters, CMS, editorial workflow systems, and analytics and AI tools. An IEEE Member, he is an electrical engineer by training and has a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.