Double 2 Telepresence Robot Has Better Stability, New Camera, and Turbo Button

Double Robotics brings ludicrous speed to its latest generation of telepresence robots

3 min read
Double 2 Telepresence Robot Has Better Stability, New Camera, and Turbo Button
Photo: Double Robotics

Today, Double Robotics is announcing the Double 2 telepresence robot, which is (sadly) not called the “Four.” But it’s still worth having a look at, because it includes a brand new TURBO button which will turn your mild-mannered telepresence robot into a mostly stoppable force of non-destruction. And there are other cool new things, too.

A few things about the TURBO button. It’s actually your Shift key. And it’s not called “TURBO MODE,” but rather “Power Drive.” Oh well. Pushing Shift while driving your Double 2 will boost its top speed from 0.9 mph to a mind-blowing 1.6 mph, which is enough to mildly annoy anyone you run into. This is especially true if you reverse and then run into them again several times in a row, which is something that I have of course never done because then your Double gets shut into a closet that it can’t get out of and you have to apologize before it gets let out. Again, not a thing that I have ever done, because that would be unprofessional. Or something.

Power Drive may be the most exciting thing about the Double 2, but it’s not the only new feature. There’s also now a thing called Lateral Stability Control, a “transformative, patent­-pending technology” that involves “a shock absorption mechanism and advanced software algorithm.” Essentially, it helps to keep your robot from tipping sideways to its death if it rolls over stuff, which is important.

The final thing you’ll want to know about the new Double 2 is that you can pay a bunch of money for a new camera kit that will improve your telepresexperience. For $250 you’ll get the following, which is backwards compatible with suddenly old Double 1s:

“Camera Kit is an attachable camera with a 150 ­degree wide ­angle lens that increases field­ of ­view by 70 percent on both sides. Along with a wide­ angle lens, there will now be always ­on Floor View, so drivers can see exactly what’s in front of them at all times. Photos will now be taken with a 5 megapixel HD camera, compared to the standard 1.2 megapixel camera.”


So how much will the Double 2 cost you? The bad news is that it’s $2,500. The good news is that this is not an increase over the price of the Double 1. Keep in mind, too, that the cost of a Double does not include the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 that you’ll need to get it to actually, you know, function. It’s basically one giant and very expensive accessory for your Apple tablet.

We’re always wondering whether the cost of telepresence systems like Double is really competitive with hiring a local minion to run around holding a laptop with Skype on it. For a base model Double 2, if you spend, say, five hours a week telepresenting yourself (which seems like a lot), that’s $9.60 per hour you could pay to someone off Craigslist to do your remote bidding for a year. This minion would be able to autonomously avoid obstacles and manipulate objects in his or her environment. The minion would also be able to go up and down stairs: the Double cannot go up stairs by itself, it can only go down stairs, and only once. Still, interacting with people can be annoying, which is why we all like robots so much anyway. At least with the Double, you’ll have some amount of confidence that it will always be where you left it, and will consistently try its best to do whatever you ask it to. Even the stairs.

The Double 2 is available now, and if you’re absolutely desperate for one, there are a few unspecified places where you can expect same-day shipping. If you already an original Double 1, you can take 10 percent off the price of your new one as long as you jump on it before the end of February, and if you’re so inclined, you can get yourself a Double 2, Camera Kit, Audio Kit, and Charging Dock all at once as a package for just $3,000.

[ Double Robotics ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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