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Stay home, let Texas Robot attend that meeting

A start-up employee in Indiana telecommutes to work in California by using a robot body stationed at his office. Meet the Texas Robot from Willow Garage.

"Hey, I love what you're wearing today." Staff at Willow Garage chat with a robo-present colleague who's only half-there. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

If you're tired of commuting to the office and telecommuting won't cut it, the Texas Robot lets you scoot around work embodied in a robot platform while chatting with your co-workers.

Willow Garage, a robot start-up in California's Menlo Park specializing in non-military applications, is developing the wheeled bots as tools to research telepresence technologies.

The vid below shows how a Willow Garage employee living in Indiana moves around his office in Silicon Valley in a robot body of sorts.

Hacked together from spare parts for Willow's PR2 platform, Texas Robots basically consist of a screen, computer, cameras, and speakers mounted on a remote-controlled, wheeled platform. They can run a whole day on a single battery charge, and then autonomously park themselves at a docking station for recharging.

Texas Robots seem to give users a greater presence at a remote location than, say, Web conferencing or a conference call. You can casually drop by a colleague's office, roll by their cubicle, and attend meetings, all in your pajamas from home.

Willow Garage has just completed building 25 Texas Robots to study the effects of having a small army of telepresent people in the office and other locations.

We're waiting for the company to tell us whether it plans to commercialize the "Texai," as it calls the bots. But I can't imagine too many reasons to leave the comforts of home and commute to the office now that they're around.

(Via I Heart Telework)