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Facebook granted patent for self-balancing robot

The patent shows a robot that can switch from two to three wheels and carry cargo. But can it "like" friends' updates for you with its robo-arm?

Has Facebook infiltrated your life? Wait until a Facebook robot starts following you from room to room.

A patent for a self-balancing robot granted to the company Tuesday shows a bot resembling a standard telepresence robot with a screen, camera and microphone.

The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but the drawings and detailed description of the little guy suggest Facebook could be looking to expand its videoconferencing capabilities with a device that adds a more human touch to long-distance electronic communications. Or takes photos of your dog and posts them to Instagram. Or just makes it easier for Mark Zuckerberg to watch you do household chores.


A proposed Facebook robot... like the looks of it? 


The patent application, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in July 2015, presents a rolling robot that melds the advantages of two-wheeled self-balancing bots with those of their three- and four-wheeled cousins.

The two-wheeled variety can be tall with a small footprint, but it can't carry much around. Bots with three or four wheels, on the other hand, are more stable and can handle more weight. It's impossible to say what kind of cargo a Facebook robot would tote (maybe all those books you're not reading because you spend too much time on Facebook)?

The patent lists Scott Wiley as the robot's inventor, and CNN, which spotted the patent, describes Wiley as a Facebook employee who previously worked at a telepresence robotics company.

Facebook is rumored to be announcing hardware with video capabilities, possibly at its May f8 Developer Conference in San Jose, California, though it's not immediately clear what advantages the company might see with video chat on a dedicated device over the video chat already available via Facebook Messenger on phones and PCs. Some of Facebook's biggest rivals are already in the market, however.   

Christopher Atkeson, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said he could see Facebook robots beyond the home, taking on tasks like delivering Facebook Live broadcasts.

"Automated cameramen and sports commentators will play an important part in increasing people's ability to capture and tell stories," Atkeson told CNN. "Imagine being a proud parent, coach, or player, and being able to televise high school sports."

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