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 ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.