Countless deals have been signed with a handshake, but what if you didn't actually need to be there? Telepresence may be the future of getting work done.
Tim StevensFormer editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Global travel is completely disrupted at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Given the state of the world, it's hard to imagine when the travel industry will return to its former glory. Given that, wouldn't it be awfully nice to be able to "be there" without, you know, actually being there?
That's the idea behind telepresence, a technology that's been around in some form or another for decades. Now, though, it's getting a second look, and Ava Robotics CEO and founder Youssef Saleh thinks his company's advanced approach is the solution to a challenging problem.
Teleportation without the teleporter
The basic idea of telepresence is that you use some device or service to take remote control of a robot. That robot could be in the next room, the next state, or the next hemisphere -- so long as the connection is good enough it shouldn't really matter.
Today's high-speed connections have made this process easier, and with everyone always having access to high-power devices in their smartphones, tablets or PCs, having the means to control the robots is easier than ever. But that still leaves a lot of problems.
One of them is actually steering the things. If you just want to attend a meeting remotely, you shouldn't have to worry about how to navigate some building you've been to -- and maybe never will. That's where the "teleportation" idea comes in.
According to Saleh, Ava Robotics' telepresence robots add a layer of artificial intelligence into the mix, enabling them to automatically map and navigate complex spaces. This means the remote operator won't need to steer the robot to their destination, they just need to schedule the time and place and the robot will find its own way there.
Not for everyone
As exciting as this technology is, we're still some way from this being able to work for everyone. A primary problem is cost. A single from Ava Robotics could cost upwards of $30,000. For larger enterprises looking to lease the bots using a service model, that cost could be closer to $1,000 monthly.
Neither is cheap, but compared to what many corporations pay on travel, the potential savings here could be large -- not to mention the increased safety afforded by staying home these days.
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