It sounds like science fiction, the idea being able to bring yourself into a robot and then use that robot to explore the world around you, but is very much a reality and believe it or not it actually has been for years now.
The technology is called telepresence and people have been using it to attend conferences.
give presentations or even just drop in on their colleagues all from the comfort of their own homes But early implementations were kind of clunky, the video connectivity wasn't very good.
The controls weren't very good.
And so most people, they just opted to hop on a plane.
Today, travel internationally is disrupted and more and more people are trying to come up with ways to stay home.
So, now what?
Joining me to talk about the current state of telepresence in this new world.
Is founder and CEO of Ava Robotics Youssef Saleh.
Youssef of let's talk a little bit more about the history telepresence because as I mentioned, it sounds crazy.
It sounds like science fiction.
But this technology has actually been on the market for years now, right?
You're absolutely right, telepresence or Remote controlled robots has been around for quite some time the concept of being able to be somewhere else and remotely control your movement.
It's been around for a decade now.
However their approach to it has been different.
Some focused on the technical aspects of it, being able to Have audio and video and be able to, as I said, remotely control these devices.
What we aim for is teleportation, true teleportation goes beyond The audio video, it goes beyond the remote control.
Its ability, you said beam yourself in.
We use the word teleport, right?
So if I wanna teleport somewhere, I click a button and I'm there, I'm literally there.
I don't drive a robot.
I don't have to worry about bumping into things or falling down the stairs.
So if you look at the evolution of robots with remote presence robots, the ability to control them, the ability to have some audio/video, all of these things been there, but not to the level where It truly could scale it truly gives me that teleporting experience all the way from, you know, having a small screen or an iPad on a stick we call him versus a whole complete experience, that approach that we talk is about The business outcome.
It's about really, I need to be some place.
I don't need to drive a robot, I don't wanna drive a robot, I wanna be there, and I wanna have a massive experience as a [UNKNOWN]
So obviously we're trying to make this as seamless as possible, give the ccomplete experience as if you we're there, and not having to worry about the details of being with the whole, even the office layout, that kind of thing.
That's right, that's right.
I mean, it's also even the network, right?
So there's all aspects of that ease of use, right?
That ability to say I need to go see Tim, or I need to go to the factory floor, or I need to go to Patient today were dealing with covid -19 and I need to go to room 206 because I have a patient I need to address, I could have never been in that facility and the robot takes me there.
I could have not work problems along the way, the robot still takes me there, so part of what enables that.
Is the spatial envision intelligence that we brought in part of our solution that goes beyond the robotics.
You know movement is artificial intelligence that makes it seamless.
And has an experience that skills into the professional world where it's not beyond the ten minutes beyond the fun, it's about getting the job done.
I'm there I could have a rich visual, rich.
Audio Video experience.
I could leverage the infrastructure, so part of what we decided to bring to market instead of having a proprietary audio video.
We have a state of the art we partner with Cisco and bringing the best audio video, but also encrypted business quality, and leveraging that investment is done in the infrastructure.
So some of the things that we're seeing is happening today.
Not just in The Enterprise and some of the examples we're seeing in healthcare.
Were leveraging infrastructure meaning people not just teleport themselves, they could teleport everybody with them to go see their parents or go see, the facility that they're going to visit and see So the, the teleporting become a reality when it's simple, easy to use, and it still gives me the charisma so if you look also the way we approached it is a VA telepresence robot has a design to you know, the ID that design behind it what can be good, simple, easy to integrate in the workplace.
Plays but has the charisma of me right?
This you know I have has a display there's about 23 inches.
It's mainly about It's me, I am there.
I I interact with people around me.
I control what I want to do, but the robot with that intelligence assist me It doesn't let me bump into things.
Doesn't let me fall.
So walk me through the robot stuff.
You mentioned a large display so that you are overwhelmingly the thing that they see and not a robot.
But what are some of the other key components, sensing and everything else that allows this robot to do what it does?
Yeah, well, I mean one of the key from a robotics perspective, it's really, it's the artificial intelligence part of the robot.
So we have a spatial awareness, spatial knowledge.
The robot knows the space and navigates around the space all by itself using the AI that's part of the robot.
So when I need to go somewhere, as I said, I don't When he's talking about beaming and teleporting is about being where you want to be and not about walking around and figuring out how to use a robot.
So navigation, understanding of the space and to move safely Around that space is critical.
Just say give me the room to know and you don't have to take control a virtual joystick and steer through the elevator or anything like that.
In addition to the spatial intelligence a robot knows how to go there by itself.
It also deals with what happens along the way, from interacting with people or objects.
Sometimes people put things in the way.
So the robot has the ability to detect that and select a different route or navigate around People, that's part of the automation that, the other thing is when I'm done, I don't wanna deal with a robot, right?
I'm done, I have to go do something else a robot goes back by itself to where it needs to go.
So it kinda of turns into more of a mission critical application, whereas most focus on what I need to do not on the robot itself.
I think the most common application people think of when they think about this stuff is attending business meetings, you know, beaming in, going into a conference room, that kind of thing.
And certainly I think that's one of the primary opportunities for these sorts of things but what are some of the other opportunities here, especially around, let's talk about tele-medicine.
What kind of things can you foresee happening when it comes to telepresence and telemedicine?
Well I think it goes beyond the meeting even though in the enterprise space it's really about a human connectivity.
It's about spontaneity, it's about independence.
It's about really making that human connection.
COVID-19 with the crisis in the healthcare space.
Is that ability to have doctors, nurses, being able to be completely independent, to go see a patient, being able to reduce the risk exposure to viruses or.
Bringing it in or taking it out, so ability to go in and out of these, rooms without physically being there, without, I mean they still have the physical presence on the robot, but Make them more efficient at the same time, even when they need to go in.
Sometimes it's time sensitive so they might be putting on that protective gear.
But somebody needs to do a quick check in.
They could go in with a robot while they.
Getting ready to come in.
Like a nursing home, for example, I would love to be able to use a robot like this to visit my mother.
Right now, her facility where she lives is completely closed off, so I can't get there.
Something like this would be fantastic.
So we've had Elder care facilities, where the thing that was really impressive for me is when the, by the time the robot arrived to the facility, within two hours, they had family.
Making, doing visitations.
Family members being able to come see their loved ones.
Some facilities extended it to healthcare providers, all the way from critical to non critical even.
You know, physical therapy to one one specific facility had a section where they had COVID-19 patients or residents that did not need to be hospitalized but they need to be isolated and.
The kind of a cross from both directions going from family visitations to healthcare providers being able to attend to the need and the other way around where some facilities started with enabling healthcare providers to have a family Visitations.
The beauty of this, when we talk about easy views, it's not just me not being needing to drive and control, it's about the other end as well.
On the other end.
And they don't need to do anything.
Some of these folks are bedridden, they can't move.
And they just experience a visitation as if somebody literally just walked in.
So it's the That whole teleportation, or being able to feel like you're there, it also falls down the other side.
Let's take a look down the road at the future.
What are some of the more exciting technologies for you that you think will make this technology even better, what about 5G for example?
Will more bandwidth, more places help telepresence?
Certainly I mean, the robotics element of the intelligence navigation being able to have increased intelligence and AI and you could offload that to.
To the network, where 5g could be helpful that you could do a lot more.
But also from a telepresence perspective.
The quality of the experience also depends on the quality of the network and the.
Broadness of the network.
So 5G will become the critical in both the audio video experience, obviously, but also being able to have a richer, more Complex AI that could be shared and be on the edge instead of being resident on the robots.
And what sort of challenges lie ahead in adoption of total presence on a more wide scale.
I think today it's and I'm seeing something that it's worth noting here.
I when people ask me the past what some of the challenges it's really a lot of it used to be culture, right?
All First realizing that you could teleport when he told me he could teleport, they think you're going crazy.>> [LAUGH]
But when you go past that in terms of the technical aspects, then the next step is really acceptance of robots and the social Acceptance there.
And one of the things that is really evident to me right now is the shift in the mindset.
People used to think of robots, AI, is some of a threat to it versus right now more of an agent of.
The acceptance is we're seeing the acceptance of robots in AI in a completely different way which I think will help in the adoption of the solution.
And cost is always a huge factor in any kind of system like this.
Can you give me an idea of what sort of cost we're looking at for a system like this, and is it the kind of thing where you're purchasing a robot, or is it more of a service that you're subscribing to?
Yeah, we do both.
We have different markets, and we have two business models.
Purchase a robot and because it's not my robot that I want one.
It's really more of an enterprise tool.
It's an organization tool.
To talk directly about the cost of a robot, it's in the $30,000 on a robot as a service Obviously pending the economics of scale here the size of the contract the length of the contract could be as low as a $1000 a month but it has a range.
We are not seeing, to be honest with, now we're focused on health and safety and the cost of a robot is not a challenge And in what we're seeing moving forward.
And it does sound very expensive, but of course, if you compare that to the cost of frequent international travel or you know, even relocating an individual, at that point actually starts to sound pretty affordable.
It's more about how, now we're part of the conversation.
How people gonna get back to work?
How they gonna transition to that?
How the philosophy of the work strays, of reading these changes.
What we're hearing is.
Even within facilities how people might need to be separated because you can't have that many people in the same room to scheduling conference rooms on the odd hours for cleaning on the on the even hours for meetings, people think about how could robots help in keeping environment safe.
We have a large measure Institute research institution here in the Boston area is working with us selecting our robot on how to deliver disinfecting capabilities using our mobility and our intelligence, navigation and vision intelligence.
To bring that into the workspace.
So it's, it's beyond really, you know, looking at costs because the now it's more about safety but also the cost is significantly less than the alternatives.
Well, on the topic of getting back to work use if I'm gonna let you get back to work.
Thank you very much for joining us and talking to me about the future of telepresence.
It's exciting stuff And I can't wait to see more.
Looking forward to seeing you again.